Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Reason for Despair

If you ever wake up feeling overcome by optimism, oozing with happiness and feeling so uplifted you can hardly stand it, just turn on the morning news and watch it for a few minutes. That will bring you back to earth – quickly.

Ebola and other diseases. ISIS and the constant threat of terrorism. Wars in the Middle East, Ukraine, and many other places on Google Earth. Murder and mayhem. Tragic accidents. Weather calamities and natural disasters. Dismal economic reports. Corporate greed.

Don't world events
sometimes make you
want to scream?
Celebrities morphing into human train wrecks. Star athletes surrounded by scandal. Self-serving politicians. Escalating hatred between people of differing ideologies. Have I cured your happy mood yet?

Apparently “happily ever after” exists nowhere but in fairy tales. If we ever wonder where the world is going in the proverbial hand-basket, it’s safe to venture a good guess. These days, when the media inform us “no news is good news,” I think that means there’s lots of news, but hardly any of it is good.

People who know me will tell you I’m an optimist at heart. Given a container 50 percent full of something, I’ll vote for “half full” every time. But given the barrage of events occurring in our nation and around the world, and observing the sad course humanity seems to have chosen, it’s become increasingly hard to find reasons for optimism.

And yet, for some people despair is not a part of their vocabulary. For me and many others, this isn’t because of some unwavering, Pollyanna belief that people are basically good. There’s too much evidence to the contrary. No, determination to ward off despair has nothing to do with a sense of confidence in our leaders, society in general, human institutions, or the silly notion that “everything works out for the best.” Rather, it’s confidence in God and His sovereignty, even when circumstances of life seem in a death spiral.

Recently I came across a passage that neatly sums up my perspective: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). There it is, in less than 25 words, the source of my hope – my confident assurance and earnest expectation.

A good friend likes to quote the following: “God is good…all the time. All the time God is good.” And this is a man who’s experienced more trauma, suffering and adversity than many of us could ever imagine. But he’s right. Even when things are at their worst, the Lord remains good.

Admittedly, even those of us that don’t see God as some aloof “force,” residing somewhere in the distant cosmos, but as a very involved deity with a vested interest in the goings-on of Earth, we’d like Him to spring into action. “Lord, do something. Anything…. And immediately would be good!”

So when hard times persist and God doesn’t seem to be concerned, what does that tell us about Him? The next verse in the same psalm gives us the key for not losing heart: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Of course, we don’t like to wait. As I’ve written before, we live in an instant, microwave, “right now!” type of society, so waiting is virtually countercultural. Perhaps that’s why a later psalm reminds us of the virtue of waiting. Psalm 37:7 urges us to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” and in verse 34 we see the admonition repeated, perhaps for emphasis: “Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land….”

Easier said than done? Yes, that’s true. But that’s where faith comes in. Even when times appear most bleak, it’s best to turn off the news and refocus on the assurance, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

That’s a sure cure for pessimism and despair.

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