Hope on the horizon
Staying alive all the way through 2013 is a major accomplishment. With just a few days to go until 2014, the countdown has begun; the suspense is building. Maybe you and I will live to see the new year, but then again…maybe not. If you are up for some sober reflection, consider a few doomsday scenarios that could easily do us in.
1. Disease and natural disasters
Exactly how many contagious diseases could one person catch? More than I can count anyway. And there must be just as many meteorites zipping on by at a million miles per hour. The other day one blew up over Montreal. Sorry, but wearing a hard hat (even a very good one) isn’t going to help. Whether it’s global warming or global cooling or super-mega-crazy storms, it doesn’t take long for humanity to be humbled.
2. Terrorists and global tyrants
On top of that, in case anyone forgot, we live in an age of military madness. Yes, one little nuclear bomb can still ruin your whole day; and quite a few countries are packing – eventually, Iran might be one of them. Blowing things up is a pastime that appeals to a large number of people. With all the combined conventional and nuclear firepower, a visitor to this planet might get the impression that we are preparing for Armageddon. Maybe we are.
3. Cruelty and human hatred
Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of people down here don’t like each other. Media companies could easily talk about nothing but slander and assault and lawsuits and quarrels and threats and deadly violence. Over in New York City, and sadly in other places as well, some people enjoy randomly punching strangers and knocking them out just for fun. There is enough human hatred to keep a small army of journalists occupied, even if they only focus on the war against Christians in Africa and the Middle East.
Survival in itself is something to celebrate. In many countries, the odds of staying alive for very long are not good. Even in comparatively safe and stable countries, threats to life and liberty abound.
Whatever differences there may be between us, you and I have two things in common: We are both mere mortals and we both live in a world plagued with problems. It is in this context that we must each attempt to do what we can to make a difference.
So don’t get caught off guard by suffering and pain and problems – and even death – in the new year. These things have been part of this fallen world for quite some time now. And don’t waste your time blaming God and wondering why your little part of the planet hasn’t been protected or spared. These mysteries are beyond our understanding.
There are, of course, some who view the so-called “problem of pain” as a knock-down argument countering the conviction that there is a loving and powerful God. This ancient problem (it is nothing new) basically has four parts: the reality of suffering, the existence of God, the belief that God is good, and the conviction that this God is all-powerful. If you remove any of these parts, you don’t have a problem anymore. But if you add one more (i.e. God is much smarter than us) then you have a mystery.
At the same time, don’t forget that there is good reason to believe that all wrongs will be made right, and that one day most of creation will be restored to its original state. There is hope. And this hope is huge. What we know to be normal on earth now is not really normal. Not at all. In addition, keep in mind that God is present in this broken world. In other words, you and I have not been abandoned. We are not alone as we face the future.
But feelings can have a way of sneaking up behind us from time to time and overpowering our core convictions. Try not to let that happen in 2014. What we may feel at any given moment does not determine what is true or what is real. Remember that. What you know in your head may be quite different from how you feel in your heart.
And yet, feelings can also help us understand. Many are shocked and surprised and temporarily stunned when confronted by raw suffering and personal pain. We suddenly feel that suffering and pain is wrong; that it just doesn’t fit. Pain feels like an intruder, like an obnoxious and uninvited guest at a party that had been going quite well.
Happiness is more easily connected with the restoration of creation, and participation in this process, than with any particular new year. But I hope you have a very happy new year nonetheless.
Whatever happens, keep moving ahead and keep doing what you can to make a difference.
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