Posts Tagged ‘hope’

lightning-strike-st-peter-basilica

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that Pope Benedict has announced his resignation.  What you may not have heard is that shortly after his announcement, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was struck twice by lighting!  Check it out:

I can’t quite decide what to make of all the speculation this has generated.  On the one hand, I think its a little sad:  the quite conservative leader of the Roman Catholic Church resigns (something that hasn’t happened since 1415) and all many people can say is “Whoa!  Lightning hit that big church!  God must be ticked!  Ha ha ha!”  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised:  jokes and mockery have replaced intelligent discourse in the world to a frightening degree.

On the other hand, I’m intrigued by how many people who have posted this video or commented on it seem to be genuinely wondering if God actually did strike the Basilica with lightning in order to display His displeasure.  That surprises me.  I mean, sure, back up a couple of hundred years and almost everyone would have assumed that this kind of thing would have signified an act of God, but the naturalistic worldview that supposedly predominates today chalks it up to the Basilica being the tallest building in Rome.  Yet even in this modern, skeptical climate there seems to be a profound desire to find meaning and significance behind things that we’re told should be written off as random natural processes.

I’m not saying God’s actually angry at the Pope for resigning.  I’m just saying it’s very interesting how many people would love that to be true…not necessarily because they’re mad at the Pope or even the Catholic Church (though I’m sure that’s true for some) but because they want God to care enough about our little corner of the cosmos to be happy or angry about what happens here.

It gets lonely out here, hurtling through the chilly dark huddled desperately around an unremarkable star.  We long to know that we’re not alone and we’ll take such assurance wherever we can find it.

Too bad we don’t look for such assurance where it can really be found:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world

but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned..

John 3:16-18

 

uncertaintiy

When I was in high school, there was song that was popular for a while called The Future’s So Bright – I Gotta Wear Shades.  No one’s singing that song anymore.

For a variety of reasons, our outlook on the future has grown less confident.  These are uncertain times that we live in, but here are four certain truths that may allow us to face the future with renewed confidence:

1.  Uncertainty is nothing new…and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  God doesn’t tell us everything about the future.  This means that human beings have always faced the future with uncertainty, but at times we have managed to forget this uncertainty when things in which we are tempted to trust seem stable (careers, bank accounts, nations, etc.).  But when those things are no longer certain, we go looking for something that can give us a sense of security and we find that the only things in which we can truly be certain are God and His promises.  Uncertainty drives people back to God and this is not a bad thing.

2.  To understand our place in history we must take a broad view of it.  Is the world better or worse than it was in the past?  It depends entirely on where, who and what you’re talking about.  It is better to be a Jew in Germany today than during the Nazi regime.  It is better to be an African American in the U.S. now than before the Civil Rights movement.  Medically speaking, it is better to be alive today than when polio could not be prevented.  But on the other hand, this is not a good time to be an unborn child.  1 in 5 pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion, while heart disease only claims 1 in 6 people in this country, meaning that human beings conceived in America today are more likely to die of abortion than anything else.  Cancer and other diseases caused by exposure to toxins and pollution are skyrocketing.

So are things better or worse today than in the past?  It depends on where, who and what you’re talking about.  To say categorically that things are worse may be to cause unwarranted despair.  To say categorically that things are better may be to give people a false sense of security.  We have to take the broad view to really understand our place in history and that is a difficult task for which few of us have the patience.

3.  God expects us to learn to view our circumstances from His perspective.  Things in the United States are tough right now and our future as a nation is uncertain.  This can tempt us to panic, but listen:  as Christians, our future is not tied to the fate of our nation.  I love my country and hope that it changes course and recovers from the downward spiral it seems to be in, but let’s face the simple truth:  there have been millions of Christians throughout history who have seen the rise and fall of the nations in which they sojourn.  If the U.S. fails to thrive or even survive, this is not the most important thing in the world for those of us who trust in the King of kings.

4.  Because God loves us, He has given us a broad outline of history so that we do not lose hope.  According to Scripture:

a. The Resurrection of Jesus ushered in a new phase of history that the Bible calls the “last days” (see Acts 2 for an example). So…yes, we are in the last days…and have been for almost 2000 years now!

b. This “last days” phase of history will culminate in a period of intense unpleasantness known as the Great Tribulation.

c. At the end of this Great Tribulation, Jesus will return to earth with all of his people, bind Satan and establish something we often call the Millennial Reign which will last for about 1,000 years (Rev. 20).

d. At the end of this Millennium, Satan will be loosed, gather the unrepentant for a final rebellion and then be cast from Creation (along with all who refuse to bow their knee to God) (Rev. 20).  Then, God will take the Creation into which we introduced disarray and decay and make it new (Rev. 21).

Obviously that’s an oversimplification (and if you’d like at least a little more detail, you can listen to a recent message of mine on this subject here) but even with this broad outline there is a great deal to be encouraged about here.

I’m not saying these truths take all the fear out of facing an uncertain future, but when we embrace them we will find that uncertainty about the future will no longer feel so paralyzing.

I was talking to a woman at church today who said that she’d been asking God “why” a lot lately and didn’t feel like He was saying much of anything. I think most of us have been at that place at least once in our lives. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this afternoon, though, and at the risk of sounding a little callous, I think I know at least two reasons why God doesn’t say why all that much.

1. “Why?” is often an expression of dissatistfaction rather than a request for enlightenment. Think about when children ask “why?” Sometimes they really want to know why, but sometimes the question is just a way of expressing displeasure and of pushing back in hopes that mom or dad will change their minds. I’m not saying it’s always that way with kids or that it’s always that way when we ask God “why?” as adults, but sometimes it is. And even the best parents sometimes end up saying “because I told you so” when they understand that the question isn’t really a plea for illumination but rather an expression of mistrust.

2. “Why?” is never as good a question as “What?” One thing I’ve learned in my 20+ years walking with God is that when I stop asking God why something happened and start asking God what He is doing in something, I’m much more likely to get a clear answer. I think it’s because “what?” takes our eyes off the circumstances themselves in a way that “why?” never can.