Yesterday’s news of the shooting rampage in Boulder, Colorado that caused the deaths of 10, coming just days after another in Atlanta in which 8 died, makes my soul ache. I am confounded by the hatred in twisted minds that brings such mayhem on the world. I should not be, given the sorry record of humanity, but I am!
I watched a TV drama last night that included a story about a boss who had dismissed a young worker because he thought he was lazy. He found out, too late, that the man was not ‘work shy,’ but was actually weakened by an undiagnosed cancer. The man came to the widow to apologize for his misjudgment and to leave a large donation for her children. I thought – “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world really worked that way?” I suppose it does, somewhere, sometime. I have such a deep longing in me for a world where right prevails, where love flourishes.
In spite of the pain, the questions, I hope. The wisdom of the Word tells me that the world is groaning, with me, waiting for a new day. “Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” (Romans 8:20-23, NLT)
The Genesis story teaches us the power of our choices, showing us that the rejection of the will of God will bring hardship and death. The seduction of the serpent invited Adam and Eve to reject the Lord’s directive. Their choice subjected the world to evil.
The awful sentence of judgment that God pronounced was the consequence of their willful sin. “And to Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, NLT) Beyond the temporal suffering, Genesis tells us of the broken relationship with the Creator. In their guilt, they hid from the Lord.
We are quick to note the terrible evils of mass shootings, of horrific crimes, of dictators and despots. But, we all, apart from God, contribute to the pain of the world. The damning indictment is stark in its simplicity – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NIV) As much as we want to think that the problems belong to another, we cannot. As hard as it may be to admit – to myself, to others, to God – I must acknowledge that when I am selfish, when I judge another, when I reject the two-fold law of love for God and others – I increase the groaning of a world in pain! I cannot, nor can you, exempt myself from what He says – “the wages of sin is death!”
What then? Only despair, only regret, only shame and guilt?
No, thankfully, there is a glorious conjunction at that point in the Word – “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV) This is our hope, my friend. God saves! Redemption is ours through Christ Jesus. Transformed lives are possible. Love will win, in the end. We need not wait for Heaven or the Second Coming of our King to enter into His peace and reign. “We Christians … have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory!” Oh may God help us to be those who, through the Spirit, make a measurable difference in our world. May God fill us with love, give us patient hope, shining brightly through us into a world that has turned so dark.
Each day we have a choice! Will we increase the pain of a suffering world, or will we live in the healing and hope that God makes possible?
The word from the Word speaks of the anticipation of the final victory over suffering. If you, like I, are aching with sorrow for the world today, remember the promise. Let the Spirit rise in you, renewing hope.
“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.”
(2 Corinthians 5:4-7, NIV)
O God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure
Sufficient is Thine arm alone
And our defense is sure
Before the hills in order stood
Or earth received her frame
From everlasting Thou art God
To endless years the same
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun
Our God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Be Thou our guard while troubles last
And our eternal home
Isaac Watts © Public Domain