I had a Solomon kind of day. Usually I try to maintain a positive attitude. Not that I’m a regular Pollyanna, flitting around while overflowing with buckets of cheer, but there’s generally some sort of effort made to see the good in situations.
It was harder after this weekend. Paris was attacked. The beautiful city of light. Lives were lost. Senseless, incomprehensible cruelty. A combination of intolerable evil and a completely misguided notion of Who God Is and what He wants.
And the attack seemed to open the floodgates for discussion on tragedy. Social media became overwhelmed. Beirut. Russian jet. The Middle East. So much violence. So much fear. Fear that causes people to move from their French solidarity (as seen through Facebook and other world monuments being lit up in a blaze of red white and blue) straight to “keep ‘em out”, leapfrogging right over that whole doing likewise and showing mercy to your neighbor thing.
Everything I saw only showed signs of more anger. More sadness. More destruction. More fear.
And then I had my Solomon day. (Or hour. It was enough.)
“This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Ecclesiastes 9:3
It’s enough to bring the strongest man to his knees. It certainly did me, and I’m far from strong. Or a man. The tragedies that have occurred and the reactions to them brought me to the sorts of tears and prayer you only reach when you just don’t understand the world you’re living in.
Sometimes, when there seem to be no other answers to be found, you just have to go back to the basics.
Look Toward Heaven
I think my generation struggles with this one. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. We don’t hope for Heaven the way some other generations have. I sat down with our church songbook and perused the songs looking forward to what comes next. Know what it shows? Songs looking toward Heaven. Songs filled with heartache and hopelessness. Songs where, far and away, the majority were written in the 1890s or the 1930s.
No tears in heaven, no sorrows given.
All will be glory in that land.
There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.
-No Tears in Heaven (1935)
God shall wipe away all tears;
There’s no death, no pain, nor fears;
And they count not time by years;
For there is no night there.
-In the Land of Fadeless Day (1899)
As I travel through life with its trouble and strife
I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way
Soon my toil will be o’er and I’ll rest on that shore
Where the night has been turned into day
-Paradise Valley (1935)
This old world is filled with trouble.
Pain and heartache on each side.
But a better life is waiting
When I cross Jordan’s rolling tide.
-Just Beyond the Rolling River (1895)
Know what was happening in America in the 1890s and 1930s? Economic depression following periods of gilded prosperity. People who had lived comfortable lives were having their world rocked by the instability of worldly wealth. They things they had put their trust in were gone and, time and time again, people were reminded of Jesus’ admonition:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
These were generations of people who had been taught to place their hope in Heaven and not in this life.
But what’s just as interesting to me as when the songs were written is when they weren’t. The last “Heaven” song (and quite an outlier at that) was written in 1985. I was born in 1987. Which means in my lifetime, that just hasn’t really been a focus. Why should it be? We have what we need. Physically, we’re not really lacking in too many ways. What’s more, we’ve been taught not to need God and His promise of eternal life. That’s for the mentally weak, the ones who use religion as a crutch because they can’t bear to imagine facing life’s trials without some all-powerful help. We’re more spiritual than that. More holy and high-minded in our faith. More pure and selfless in our faith.
There’s nothing wrong with loving Jesus for the sake of Jesus. I would be willing to argue that God is worth loving and submitting ourselves to simply because He Is God. But overlooking His promises because we think we don’t need them doesn’t display our holiness, but betrays our lack of humility.
This world is not perfect. Far, far, really super far from it. But a perfect one awaits. We have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4) awaiting those who have submitted their lives to Him. That’s powerful. That’s cause for celebration. When the world seems too dark to bear, remember that there’s perfection waiting ahead.
Be Willing to See the Good
I was raised on PBS and Mr. Rogers was the cream of that crop. His positive and gentle outlook on life could melt the hardest of hearts and, years after his passing, he still teaches me.
There are always people helping. There are always people doing good. No matter how depressing and bad and evil the world may get, there is always good to be found.
Elijah was a broken man, running for his life from a wicked rule in a wicked kingdom. He was depressed. Suicidal. He saw only evil and its results around him. He believed he was the only one in the entire world that had any good left in him. He asked God for his death. God’s response? “There are seven thousand who haven’t bowed to Baal.”
God knew Elijah wasn’t strong enough to stand on his own and so He told him he didn’t have to. There were thousands more left to encourage him.
There are plenty around today as well. Open your eyes. Look for them.
I write a lot about being encouragements to those around you. I believe that with all my heart. God called us to be lights to the world and I think He meant it. But this article isn’t about that. This is for when you don’t know how to do that. This is to let you know God understands our weaknesses and has something better promised for us. He’s given Christians to one another as parts of a body so we can be what others can’t. This is to let you know it’s okay to be overwhelmed and heartsick at times. This is to help you find your way back to that so that one day you’re able to be that for those who need it.
God is good, the ultimate good. There’s hope for it in the next life and evidence for it in this one, if you’re willing to take a look around. Trust in Him.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.