9.01.2008

SORROWFUL, YET ALWAYS REJOICING

To live as a Christian in the 21st century can seem an arduous journey. We humans crave comfort, and yet, while the Christian life provides the ultimate and one true comfort, suffice to say there is much discomfort along the way. This sermon, the front page of any newspaper, and our own lives are all the reminder we need that, while we know that the back of the book tells us that good wins in the end, there's plenty of evil to contend with until then.

If anything, growing as a Christian means simultaneously moving to a place of deeper comfort (as we draw more closely in step with God) and a place of deeper distress (as we allow ourselves to feel more deeply our own pain, that of those around us, and also of the world as a whole). As our theology matures, we believe more fully in a God who conquers evil, and yet also more fully in the existence and pervasiveness of that evil.

The sermon I linked to above is a powerful word concerning the extent to which "natural evil is a signpost pointing to the horrors of moral evil." Natural disasters, violence, illness, and other causes of grave human suffering remind us of the poisoning effect of sin. It speaks of a modern, me-centric, and perhaps self-righteous (not to mention dangerously naive) attitude that asks, "Did Katrina happen because of New Orleans' sin": Katrina is just a drop in the bucket in terms of evil's impact, and New Orleans' sin is a just a drop in the bucket in terms of mankind's depravity.

When disaster strikes, when a child is born with severe health issues, when violence continues unabated: we are all impacted by this physical manifestation of a world gone wrong, and we are all part of a human race whose sinfulness has merited such a curse. Ironically, I say this with trembling, because I do not often respond as I should when life happens, with reverence for my Maker or a desperate need to beg for His mercy or a depth of gratitude in the remembrance and experience of His love.

There is sometimes an increase in spirituality in times of desperation. Our perspective, we are told, is shaken back to what is really important. Unfortunately, much of this is the equivalent of seed sown on rocky ground, which sprouts up fast and burns away even faster. May we instead reclaim in these desperate days a proper fear of God, an acknowledgment of our participation in rebellion and therefore our role in the evil in this world that that has caused, and a joy that comes from knowing that there is yet a happy ending. And not just a happy ending, but a way along the way, however sorrowful, to be always rejoicing.
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