“The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. Gone, too, are the great painters and the great musicians and the great sculptors. The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre. Even the appreciation of the glories of the past is gradually being lost, under the influence of a utilitarian education that concerns itself only with the production of physical well-being…
“This unprecedented decline in literature and art is only one manifestation of a more far-reaching phenomenon; it is only one instance of that narrowing of the range of personality which has been going on in the modern world. The whole development of modern society has tended mightily toward the limitation of the realm of freedom for the individual man. The tendency is most clearly seen in socialism; a socialistic state would mean the reduction to a minimum of the sphere of individual choice. Labor and recreation, under a socialistic government would both be prescribed, and individual liberty would be gone. But the same tendency exhibits itself today even in those communities where the name of socialism is most abhorred. When once the majority has determined that a certain regime is beneficial, that regime without further hesitation is forced ruthlessly upon the individual man. It never seems to occur to modern legislatures that although ‘welfare’ is good, forced welfare may be bad. In other words, utilitarianism is being carried out to its logical conclusions; in the interests of physical well-being the great principles of liberty are being thrown ruthlessly to the winds.
“The result is an unparalleled impoverishment of human life.”
-J. Gresham Machen,Christianity and Liberalism, written in 1923
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge–and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder…
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.
So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us…
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
“When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are-their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of the dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology-one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system…A public school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.
“The truth is that the materialistic paternalism of the present day, if allowed to go on unchecked, will rapidly make of America one huge “Main Street,” where spiritual adventure will be discouraged and democracy will be regarded as consisting in the reduction of all mankind to the proportions of the narrowest and least gifted of the citizens.”
-J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, written in 1923
My favorite Podcast, Garage Logic with Joe Soucheray (Hail the Flashlight King!), recently introduced me to an interesting idea, a statement called Hanlon’s razor. A razor is a brief, logical statement intended to help someone process through a problem and quickly come to the best solution. Hanlon’s razor says this:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
I instantly liked the statement because not only did it seem somewhat cynical and jaded (which I think lends to its credibility), but, as I pondered over it, it strikes me as extremely useful.
So, I did a little research. The statement seems to be a blending of 2 other ideas, one being Occam’s razor, which states, “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” In other words, the simplest explanation is usually right. The other idea that Hanlon’s razor springs out of is Murphy’s Law, which states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Yes, Murphy’s Law is a joke, and, while Hanlon’s razor has several similar statements throughout history from legitimate sources, its origination in this form seems to be from a Murphy’s Law joke book from 1980.
That not withstanding, it strikes me as an idea we would do well to consider. We deal with a lot of things in life that we don’t like, and its up to us to determine how best to react to those things. One the one hand, we can decide that every decision and idea that we run into that causes us problems, or that we don’t like, stems from someone with ill intent trying to cheat or manipulate us. Or, on the other hand, we can chalk at least some of it up to the common occurance of human stupidity.
Recently I’ve been addressing more and more the idea of conspiracy theories. There are a lot of dramatic, sweeping actions being taken by the government in the COVID-19 response, and its getting all of our attention. Some agree with the actions, while others disagree strongly. And, while its clear that some are taking advantage of the crisis for their agendas (“This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” -House Majority Whip James Clyburn), not everyone in the government is out to get us. Using Hanlon’s razor we can propose that, instead of the whole of government trying to attack us, most of them are just stupid and making poor decisions as a result.
OK, that’s not very charitable, so let’s say it a different way. There are a lot of people who have different facts, different perspectives, and different priorities than we have. We may disagree, but we aren’t in power so we don’t get to make the decisions (elections matter…). Instead of holding malice and intentionally trying to destroy businesses and individuals, it is far more likely that at least most of our political leaders are simply prioritizing things that we who disagree would not.
I’ll give a personal example of this. I didn’t vote for Governor Walz (Minnesota), and I won’t in the future. His politics and mine don’t line up at all. But, until recently, I praised his response to the coronavirus pandemic. It was clearly communicated, very moderate comparatively, and responsive to ongoing situations and conversations. I have recently begun to split a bit with him on further actions, but I have not and do not believe he is out to get me or my friends and neighbors that own, operate and work in small businesses. There is no malice there; I simply believe there is some wrong thinking.
When we think like this, we are giving the benefit of the doubt to people that deserve it. Not everyone does, but most do. Giving that benefit of the doubt to others is the loving thing to do, and that is the calling placed on us as followers of Christ. We should stand up, voice our opinions, call out injustice when we see it, and fight for the good of everyone—small business owners, the poor and disadvantaged, those who have lost jobs, those on fixed incomes, the elderly, people living in congregate care, those with preexisting conditions, and others that are highly susceptible and at risk.
There are lots of ideas on how to proceed through this pandemic, but there are clearly no easy answers. So, as we all find our way through this, let’s be considerate of each other, get along even when we don’t agree, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re just idiots. Or maybe…
Apologetics is not a set of techniques for winning people to Christ. It is not a set of argumentative templates designed to win debates. It is a willingness to work with God in helping people discover and turn to his glory.
Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics
I really dislike analogies that every teacher uses and everyone has heard a dozen times, but I’m going to use one now. I’m sorry. (Not really. If you’re bothered, get over it.)
Do you know how federal agents learn to identify counterfeit bills? What they don’t do is spend countless hours studying the intricate differences in the counterfeit bills. Those differences could be almost infinite, and it would be impossible to memorize all of them. What they actually do is spend hour upon hour studying every intricate detail of the real bills, learning every line, curve, image and shade, so that when they run into a fake they see the differences in that bill from the one they already know so well.
That’s a little like what apologetics is. It is the ability to point out truth in a world filled with counterfeits. It’s highlighting the brightness of glory of God to a dark world. It requires that we know two things. First and foremost is knowing what it is that we are highlighting. It’s understanding the truth of God, especially as He is revealed to us in the Bible. The second is knowing who we are revealing Him to—understanding the audience we are speaking to and giving an understandable and well-suited message of truth to them.
The task of the apologist is not to make the Christian faith attractive or relevant to the world. Rather, we are called on to help people appreciate and discover its power, relevance, and persuasiveness.
Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics
Apologetics is something that every believer is called to. Talking about, and especially defending, our faith isn’t easy though. It’s intimidating, it makes us afraid of the reactions we may get, and its pretty easy for us to avoid. Nevertheless, it is an essential piece of our Christian mission, and it’s one that we need to train ourselves on.
Mere Apologetics is a good place to start. Alister McGrath is one of the great minds of our generation, and this book is a great introduction to the topic. McGrath starts by laying the groundwork for what apologetics is, why its important, and how we should go about presenting our case in todays world. He then highlights examples of apologetics and approaches we can take to engage our world with the truth of the gospel. The ideas he lays out are extremely important, and the way he lays them out are simply put and very well stated.
Every generation believes it stands at a critical point in history.
Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics
Ultimately, learning apologetics is about teaching ourselves how to best communicate the truth that our faith is founded on to a world desperately in need of it. We need to be able to explain why we as Christians aren’t blind, ignorant, superstitious, anti-science, and delusional. That sounds harsh, but there are a lot of people that truly believe that we are (for example, the reaction to VP Mike Pence as the leader of the coronavirus response).
But the truth is that there are legitimate, intelligent, well-thought-out reasons to believe what we believe. There’s even science that backs up what we believe. In order to engage with people that don’t understand, we need to be willing and prepared. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.
I pray that we would be willing and prepared to fulfill the mission we have been put on.
Apologetics is to be seen not as a defensive and hostile reaction against the world, but as a welcome opportunity to exhibit, celebrate, and display the treasure chest of the Christian faith.
Today I am going to highlight the single greatest problem plaguing us in the United States and give the solution that will save us all.
The problem is, because of the problem, no one that needs to hear the message will hear it. Drat.
Also, I DEFINITELY am not guilty of this AT ALL!
<late warning: this post may contain sarcasm>
The issue at hand: confirmation bias.
Definition: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
If this isn’t the greatest problem plaguing us right now, it’s definitely towards the top. The idea is this: we have certain set beliefs and ideas, and instead of open-mindedly examining new evidence in order to reach new and better conclusions, we only seek out and accept information that backs up what we already believe, or we interpret new information in a way that backs up what we already want to think.
Lets look at the current COVID-19 crisis. By a vast and dramatic margin, polls are showing that the public’s perception of how dangerous the coronavirus is and how our leaders are responding to the crisis is split by political party. Just to clarify: political ideology has nothing to do with virology, but for some reason it often defines our views on the virus. If you are a Democrat you almost certainly hate how President Trump has led the national response, you are very likely to have a great deal of concern about infection, and you will tend to believe the stay-at-home orders should continue for significantly longer. If you are a Republican you likely view the President’s response very positively, you likely have little concern about infection, and you thought the stay-at-home orders should have been lifted about 20 minutes after they were ordered.
Social media is a particularly rank petri dish for confirmation bias, and the ‘rona is again highlighting our confirmation bias. Those who are conservative and are highly skeptical of media and government in general are posting conspiracy theories about how the government is creating the crisis, beliefs that the media is inflaming a non-situation, and other “proof” posts like the video of a scientist claiming Dr. Fauci led a cabal that ran her out for blowing the whistle on their black-magic science, despite the fact that 5 minutes with Google can show that her claims have more holes in them than my daughters sweatshirt after it was left by the dog’s kennel for a day. On the other hand, my liberal friends are filling their feeds with posts say “AHHHH WEAR UR MASKS EVRYWHR OR WUR ALL GUNNA DIEYYYYYYYY!!!!!”
Listen, we’re all free to believe what we think is best, and we are all called to be loving and considerate of others (a rule that applies to social media as much as the rest of life). We are free to encourage others and try to get others to see our views and beliefs in a way that is respectful. And others are free to continue to disagree and act on their beliefs. We can discuss and disagree in a respectful and even loving way if we are simply willing to have a little humility and listen to one another.
The key to confirmation bias is this: if we are going to live our lives in an echo chamber, only surrounding ourselves with people and information that will validate what we already want to think, we’re aren’t going to know the truth, and the truth is what we are called to as believers. Throughout scriptures truth and light are tied together, and falsehoods and lies are tied with the darkness. And, as much as we may want to believe it, no political party or single group has the market cornered on truth, so a personal evaluation for you might be whether or not you find yourself in agreement at- or near-100% of the time with any one group or person (except me; its good to always agree with me).
Conservatives-look at news from someone besides Fox News and One America News occasionally. Liberals, take a peak at the Drudge Report from time to time (I won’t turn you in). Listen to some alternate viewpoints, vet your sources, and find reliable sources for information (SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE!!!).
Have a healthy level of skepticism on everything. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into an “all or nothing” belief system-just because you disagree on some things doesn’t mean you are rejecting everything (example: you can be a Republican and dislike Trump, and you can be a Democrat and support his COVID-19 response or other policies and actions). Learn to think critically and examine issues from multiple angles.
And, above all, don’t allow fear to drive you. The world is driven by power and control, and there is little that allows us to be controlled quite as well as fear. But we who are in Christ have nothing to fear, because our hope is in eternity, and there is nothing that this world can throw at us that can change that.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Thou owest men nothing, yet payest out to them as if in debt to thy creature, and when thou dost cancel debts thou losest nothing thereby.
Augustine, The Confessions
There are some things that I feel are out of my league, beyond anything I should mess with. One such thing is writing on “The Confessions”.
Augustine of Hippo (or Saint Augustine) is a pillar of the Christian Church. Born in 345 AD in what is now Algeria, Augustine eventually took on the role of Bishop of Hippo, an important center of the early church in North Africa.
Augustine’s life and ministry were surrounded by other great names in the early church, but none have had the impact for 1,600 years that Augustine has had. His theology and philosophy on God, human nature, and the church are foundational to theology today.
The Confessions isn’t a theology book (exactly…). It’s often seen as secondary to his book, The City Of God. But The Confessions is powerfully personal, because the book is, essentially, his autobiography. More than just Augustine telling his life story, it is his processing his own life from a theological and philosophical perspective: how, and why, did he do what he did, make the choices he did, and go the direction that he went?
WAIT!!!! Don’t give up on it yet!
Augustine was brilliant, incredibly self-reflective, and brutally honest. And his story is so relatable to anything we see and experience today that I think everyone can identify with it.
…I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error — not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.
Augustine, The Confessions
Augustine wasn’t supposed to be a bishop, or even a priest…at least that’s what his dad would have said. He was raised to be an intellectual, to go to school and become someone important (and, more importantly, rich). But, while his dad had big plans for his son, Augustine’s mother had a more simply hope—she wanted her son to follow Jesus. So she prayed that, and spoke that to him, constantly.
But Augustine didn’t grow up a believer. He didn’t become a believer as a teen, or as a young adult. It wasn’t until Augustine was 31 that he became a follower of Christ, having finally been convinced through study and reason and logic, and a mighty work of the Holy Spirit on a very stubborn soul, of something that he had always known but avoided and personally rejected; that Jesus Christ was the true son of God.
In between his childhood and his conversion, Augustine did what people like him do. He searched, he learned, he experimented. He looked for truth, and pleasure, and joy. He studied philosophers, alternative religions, new and different teachings, all trying to figure out what was true and real.
He also lived a lifestyle that his mother would not have approved of. He slept around, he got into trouble, he drank. In other words, he lived like most people live today. He did want he wanted, chasing after pleasure and happiness.
The difference was, he later looked back and asked the question, “why?” Why did he do what he did?
One very famous story from The Confessions highlights a great deal of not only Augustine’s thinking, but human nature in general. One day, as a teen, he and some friends were tearing around town, as teen boys do. They snuck into someones back yard and found a pear tree, and they took all the pears off of the tree and ran away. However, they knew the pears weren’t any good for eating, so they snuck them off and threw them to the hogs.
But again, the interesting part is the “why” that Augustine explores. He did it because he knew it was wrong; he enjoyed the rebellion, the thrill of doing something that he knew could get him in trouble.
..I was roused to a desire for wisdom. And here I was, still postponing the abandonment of this world’s happiness to devote myself to the search. For not just the finding alone, but also the bare search for it, ought to have been preferred above the treasures and kingdoms of this world; better than all bodily pleasures, though they were to be had for the taking. But, wretched youth that I was—supremely wretched even in the very outset of my youth—I had entreated chastity of thee and had prayed, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” For I was afraid lest thou shouldst hear me too soon, and too soon cure me of my disease of lust which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished.
Augustine, The Confessions
We all went through a phase like that, and many of us still probably can admit that we sometimes do the same thing. But Augustine digs deeper into the human condition and identifies a couple of things. One is that humans have a propensity towards evil; we will do evil just for evil’s sake. We don’t need any motivation beyond the fact that we want to do what is wrong; they knew they didn’t want to eat the pears, they just wanted to steal. Beyond the desire to do evil is evil that is set in our hearts; we are depraved, naturally prone to sin almost constantly. It is set in human nature in general and in each of us individually.
We are all sinners, by nature and by choice, but God’s Word can have an impact on us, just as it did on Augustine. He was never perfect, he still made mistakes, but one day he sat on a bench in a garden and finally gave over his very selfish heart to the God who had been waiting for it.
And that is a story that, I pray, we can all identify with.
What is it that shineth through me and striketh my heart without injury, so that I both shudder and burn? I shudder because I am unlike it; I burn because I am like it. It is Wisdom itself that shineth through me, clearing away my fog, which so readily overwhelms me so that I faint in it, in the darkness and burden of my punishment. For my strength is brought down in neediness, so that I cannot endure even my blessings until thou, O Lord, who hast been gracious to all my iniquities, also healest all my infirmities–for it is thou who “shalt redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with loving-kindness and tender mercy, and shalt satisfy my desire with good things so that my youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s.” For by this hope we are saved, and through patience we await thy promises. Let him that is able hear thee speaking to his inner mind. I will cry out with confidence because of thy own oracle, “How wonderful are thy works, O Lord; in wisdm thou hast made them all.” And this Wisdom is the Beginning, and in that Beginning thou hast made heaven and earth.
NOTE: There are many versions and translations of this book, including several that are more modern than the one I read and have quoted from. Shop around. It’s one of the great classics, you should have any trouble finding it. Or you could read it in the original Latin. Augustine was very good at Latin.
In a recent sermon I made a statement that I imagined was taken 2 ways: it was ignored, or it was disagreed with. Maybe I’m wrong (it happened one other time…) but those seem to be the common thoughts on the subject. What I said was this: Christians who try to live their lives like everyone else are farther and farther away from the biblical model of a follower of Christ because our culture is falling further and further away from that biblical model.
I imagine that statement was taken those 2 ways for a reason. (I have to imagine because there were only 4 people in the room when I preached it to the camera) I think it was disagreed with because there is a portion of the church that wants to pretend that things aren’t changing that much or that quickly. Christians can be pretty good at insulating ourselves from reality sometimes. I think it was largely ignored because many Christians don’t want to change their behavior and stand out in the world because its inconvenient.
People who call themselves ‘Christian’ increasingly are confronted with some decisions on beliefs, and I think they boil down to one major question: is the Bible true? I have long argued that true Christians—which I define as someone that puts his or her trust in Jesus as Lord, believes in the Bible, and seeks to live its principles in his or her daily life—are already a small minority in the US (usually surveyed at around 3%-7%). If we believe the Bible is true, then that requires a life-response; for example, Jesus says if you love me you will obey what I command, so if we are not obeying Jesus then we do not love Jesus, he is not our Lord, and we are not going to heaven. That is a clear, direct biblical teaching that requires that our lives be different than they would otherwise be if we didn’t believe in the Bible.
More people (56%) are sure Satan exists than are sure God exists (49%).
More people believe Jesus sinned (44%) than believe that Jesus was sinless (41%).
This is significant because without his sinlessness Jesus’ death has no redemptive value.
~43% of the nations is agnostic (God may exists but in unknowable), atheistic, polytheistic (there are multiple gods), pantheistic (we are all gods) or ‘new age’ (“‘God’ refers to the total realization of personal, human potential or a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach.”).
45% of people who hold to basic Christian beliefs about God also believe that it is impossible to be certain that He exists.
There is a lot that can be theorized from this study, but my takeaway is this: we don’t care enough about the Bible. Most people’s beliefs in God, Satan, salvation, and morality have little connection to anything concrete. Faith has become what what was termed about a decade ago as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” For what its worth, that’s a nice phrase to learn and pull out when you want to impress someone.
Moralistic therapeutic deism essentially means this: a persons beliefs in God and right and wrong are whatever makes that person feel good. In other words, religion is convenience. 10 years ago this was focused on teenagers. Now, those teenagers are adults and that belief has spread. What a person “feels” is more important than what the Bible says.
I will grant that there are aspects of the Bible and theology that are widely disagreed on, but the majority of it is pretty clear and straightforward: love God, love others. Stay away from sin. Remain focused on eternity, and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ here and now. Because the nation as a whole now rejects the ideas of who God is, who Jesus is, what sin is and, maybe most importantly, whether or not the Bible is of any value.
But the Bible is God’s Word. In it we learn who God is, who Jesus is and what sin is. With it we can understand and receive salvation, live life as God has called us to, and see the future hope He has in store for us. Without it, we are left with our selfish wants and wishes and a religion based on “me-me-me.” God become a mirror, reflecting ourselves back at us so we can feel good about ourselves, and if we do that we’ll still be staring at ourselves as we walk through the gates of hell.
We must follow the Bible, and if we do we will look different than the world. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. It ok. It’s more than that…it’s good. Go ahead and embrace the weird.
You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.
Sometimes I’m not very good at being compassionate. It isn’t who I am. I try, I have worked on it and, over the years, God has grown me, but it still isn’t my default. I’m more of a suck-it-up kind of guy.
But it’s important to remember where others are at, and where we are at ourselves, when difficulties and struggles come, and we all have difficulties and struggle from time to time. Marriage is hard and often painful. Finances can cause extraordinary stress. Things break: cars, houses, computers, bones. Nature happens: storms, tornados, earthquakes, viruses. People get sick. We get sick. Sometimes, loved ones die.
“Suck it up” doesn’t work when those things happen. Not for others, and not for ourselves. We need to grieve and process. Grief isn’t just something we do when someone dies, its something we do when we realize something has changed, when something we held onto is lost. And grief is complicated. It involves pain, anger, confusion, and denial.
When we are struggling, we need help. Counseling is good-no one should ever feel any shame or embarrassment for asking for help. Wisdom is also good. For myself, I look for people that have strengths where I have weaknesses, and I look to them for wisdom and counsel.
That is what led me to Max Lucado’s book You’ll Get Through This. Lucado’s writing is wise, gentle, compassionate, and full of the truth of scripture.
Compassion matters to God. This is the time for service, not self-centeredness. Cancel the pity party. Love the people God brings to you.
In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado uses the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis to speak to pain and suffering and how we can process our difficult times and come out the other side, a lesson we all need sometimes.
Different struggles bring out different thoughts, questions and emotions, but Lucado highlights scriptural and practical principles that apply to suffering across the board. Questions like, “where is God when I’m suffering,” “how can God allow this to happen,” and “will this ever end?”
Whether you are struggling through something now or not, this book is a good encouragement on how to approach difficult times and come through them stronger. It also serves as a good reminder that God is always in control, and the end result of every struggle will be future blessings.
God hasn’t forgotten you. Just the opposite. He has chosen to train you…Dismiss the notion that God does not see your struggle. On the contrary, God is fully engaged. He sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the test of today.
Fear is a strange thing. Fear can come from a thing (a virus) or a lack of a thing (toilet paper?). It can because of knowledge (number of deaths from the virus) or lack of knowledge (when will there be toilet paper?).
It can be something that we understand or it can be something we don’t even realize is there. Maybe most interestingly, it can manifest in either a retreat or an attack—what we sometimes call the “fight or flight” responses.
There are a lot of people right now (maybe even most people) that are dealing with fear. Some people are afraid of the virus. Some people are afraid of the economic impact of what is happening right now. Some are afraid of what is going to happen to family, friends and loved ones. Some are simply afraid of the fact that we don’t know what is going to happen in the coming weeks and months.
I’ve seen and have stories of how our fear is manifesting in our daily lives. Some are in hiding and terrified by what is or could be happening. Some are out and about, acting bold, while in their hearts they are dealing with a whole host of what-ifs that lead to fear and anxiety. Some are responding in anger, lashing out at others because of what they view as inconsiderate or dangerous.
On social media, with the lack of filter that is so prevalent, this is even more apparent. As I check my Twitter feed I see many posts ridiculing the response to coronavirus. Some are saying we are being far too lax in our collective approach. Others are saying we are being far too strict in our approach.
Regardless of our opinions on response and timing, there are a couple of concerns that I have. One is that some are allowing fear to control them. It becomes the driving force behind their decisions and their interactions, and this will lead to misery for those individuals and for anyone in their lives.
A second concern of mine is that I am seeing what I will bluntly put as an increase in paranoia. There are more and more conspiracy theories flying around every day; how did the virus start, who is “controlling” it, what is its “purpose”, how is the government using this to control us and take away our freedom and guns and religious rights? A third of our nation believes that someone has a vaccine but is withholding it. People around the world are tearing down and burning 5G cell towers because…well, I don’t really know why. Cell phones cause viruses I guess? Ed Stetzer, who has been putting out invaluable resources for ministries and for Christians during the stay-at-home order time, recently published a wonderful article that I would recommend called, “On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies: Gullibility is not a Spiritual Gift”. (This is coming from the guy that was writing about UFOs a couple of posts ago…)
A final thought is this: in the midst of all of this, we have NOTHING TO FEAR!!! God is still in control! That hasn’t changed and it won’t change!
I like to play a game sometimes called, “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?” In the game you consider a situation and ask the question, “whats the worst that could happen?” It isn’t a complex game.
Lets say, right now, I contract coronavirus and, despite extraordinary odds given my age and health, I get very sick. I feel miserable for days, I’m hospitalized, then I die.
I have a wife and 2 small kids. We have family and loved ones, and I know they will be taken care of. This is a terrible situation for them, but God is still in control and they will make it through. As for me, I croak and the next moment, I wake up in heaven. That’s a win for me! So…worst case scenario, not so bad.
That may seem simplistic, and maybe even a bit offensive to some, but really that is the attitude the Bible lays out for us. Over and over again it tells us to not fear death, to trust in God, and keep our eyes fixed on the hope we have for eternity.
So, if I can be so bold as the play the role of angel for a moment, BE NOT AFRAID! Or, if I can use another callback to a previous post, DON’T PANIC! God’s got this. We’ll be ok. There may be some pain or heartache along the way, but there is immense joy in front of us. Stay on mission: love God, love others. Trust me, I read the end of the book: it all works out.