The world’s gone crazy, Virginia.
At least that’s how it feels. Like the undercurrent of evil has caught us and become a whirlpool sucking us down, down to a place we can’t imagine. People just going to a music festival to have a good time become victims of a madman spraying bullets down like a hard rain from hell.
Nature it seems, has spun out of control, knocking down houses and islands and lives like bowling pins. And everyone’s angry, everyone’s looking for someone to blame for it all. If nothing else, it seems like we are looking to blame someone else for the brokenness in our own lives, our inability to create Paradise here on Earth for ourselves.
We’re arguing over football players and people are dying. I remember a sermon I heard about forgiveness many years ago, where the speaker said that the Democrats and Republicans are mad at each other, the blacks and the whites are mad at each other, and the dog is mad at the cat. And that seems to be where we’re at right now.
And of course for those of us who believe in God, the question is: What in the world is God doing? Is he doing anything? Can’t he see how screwed up we are down here? Why doesn’t he fix it?
If that sounds a little disrespectful, maybe even a little angry, I wonder if you’ve listened to the rumblings of your own heart. Because if you’re human and believe in him even just a little, I bet you have thought similar thoughts now and then. Did you really think he didn’t hear those thoughts? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Even Abraham argued with God.
So why doesn’t he? Do something, that is? After all, he’s omnipotent, omnipresent, all-powerful and all those other words that mean he can do anything. So why doesn’t he fix us and our busted up hearts and lives and this busted up planet where even the weather seems to be rebelling? Does he even care? If we were in charge surely we could do better, right?
I know you don’t really want to hear it, because it’s no great comfort, but God isn’t on your timetable or anyone’s. As far as we know, time doesn’t even exist for him. So it seems like impatience should be foreign to his nature. And yet, in scripture, he gets impatient and royally ticked off, and expresses his love and hate. So much for our philosophizing about him being above emotions. But the fact remains, he knows the end from the beginning…so worrying must never occur to him.
He knows how much we and the world can take, not because he’s orchestrating it all but because he made it all. And then, as foolish as it seems to us, he set us free, giving us dominion over his stuff. All the bad and ugly that’s happened since is not his doing. But still, you say, how can he simply stand by and let it happen?
I read a quote recently: “God’s answer to suffering is not an explanation but the Incarnation.” Whoa. Let that sink in for a bit. God’s answer to the mess we made is not, as of yet, to fix it all. His answer was to throw himself into our mess and let us destroy him like we destroy most everything else. To the suffering, he can say: “I’m one of you. I’ve been exactly where you are.”
As the old hymn says: “He took our sins and our sorrows and made them his very own, bore our burdens to Calvary and suffered and died alone.”
A god that stays above it all, who manipulates all events, like Aristotle’s or Plato’s unmoved mover is a god with no compassion, no empathy, and no part in our suffering. That version of God looks nothing like Christ and has no place in Christianity.
But you know all this already right? You’ve been told it a hundred times in Sunday school and /or a thousand sermons. That Jesus died for you and conquered sin and suffering. But this world doesn’t feel like a place where those things have been well and truly defeated, because we wade in them day by day, and some rebellious part of us whispers: “Jesus, what have you done for me lately?”
“Hopelessness is what flings us into the presence of evil.”
I wish I could remember what book I read that in, so I could give the author credit. There is so much in that sentence that I don’t know where to begin. It is truth on so many levels. Scripture is full of references to Our Hope. The Hope found in knowing God and knowing future Glory will be ours. Another hymn says our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And when the enemy is able to steal that? We are left with nothing. We can endure searing, hellish trials in this life as long as we are still able to sing “Amazing Grace” even in the face of death. We can even rejoice in suffering, grudgingly, if we but know that suffering will provide growth and deeper strength within us. We can dance in the rain, ignoring our chilled skin. We can climb mountains of pain and find joy on top, if we can cling to Hope. Without it, evil surely and steadily, will creep into our broken places and inhabit us. It will spill out of us and wound others. But with hope to sustain us, all the sin and death in this world is only a momentary distraction. Hopelessness is the death of the Soul.
And now you would expect me to start talking about heaven. And that’s a good place to start, but our hope doesn’t end there. On this beautiful fall day, I can certainly see glimpses of Glory all around. And yet nature is still groaning, as Paul says, for restoration, (Romans 8:19 through 23) and we sure have seen her doing a lot of groaning lately.
In Matthew 19:28 Jesus speaks of a renewal of all things when all will be made right and justice restored to this world. Revelation (21: 1-5) tells us of a new Heaven and a new Earth, a moment when Heaven comes down to Earth and every tear will be washed away.
And Peter reminds us:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
2 Peter 3:13
I used to think two false things about end times, because of the way I understood what was taught to me in church. One was that God would destroy this Earth, and that would be the end of it. The other is that heaven would be our final home. What? It isn’t? If you read these passages you’ll find exactly what I’m talking about. So don’t take my word for it.
God isn’t through creating. He isn’t done restoring souls and he isn’t done making all things new. The end times are nothing to look forward to with fear and trembling. We should look forward to them with rejoicing and great hope. If the Incarnation was the beginning, and what a beginning it was, how glorious will be the ending for those who believe? And more to the point, the end is not the end. It’s only another beginning. So if you’re ready to give up on this world and on humanity, it’s time to look up and put your faith in something real and solid. At the end of this age God will usher in a new one where all will be made new and made right. There is plenty of reason for Hope and we’ve never needed that Hope more than right now.