March 18, 2010

To Live is Christ — anchored in truth

The man in the cartoon raises his fist in the air and says, “God, why do You allow so much injustice and pain in the world?”

The next pane shows words coming from the clouds that say, “I might ask you the same thing.”

In this life, we have trouble. It is with us because we are sinners and want our own way. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the wisdom or farsightedness to see what will come of that, or we don’t care. Also, we resist admitting that human selfishness and sin are at the root of the injustice and pain. It is not God’s fault that people kill people, or that children suffer abuse, or that wars happen; it is our fault.

It might seem more plausible to blame God for earthquakes and the resulting devastation from “natural” disasters, but the Bible says that the whole world has been affected by human sin (and supporters of global warming would agree). The first couple lived in an ideal Eden, no bugs or weeds and no sin, at least for a while. Then they disobeyed God and were expelled into the world that we live in now, an imperfect place.

When I was reading the paper this morning, this biblical big picture of human history flashed through my mind. Also, I thought of the ideas in these verses:

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2)
My heart was heavy as I looked at bad news, but as soon as I thought of God and His merciful kindness, the heaviness lifted. Truth about God does that. So does praise.

Praise reminds me that we are not in heaven yet. We are in a sin-stained world, one that is imperfect. It didn’t start out like that, but human choices have made it so. Heaven is still to come.

Praise also gave me a sense of being anchored. The evil that goes on all around could pull me into despair or cynicism. Sheer volume makes me feel helpless and useless against its dominance. Yet God is still sovereign. Praising Him gives me hope. I cannot put a dent in all of it or even much of it, but I can obey Him and do whatever He asks of me.

Praise also helps me think of other good things. Last night a local radio station did a feature on a local agency for children’s advocacy. This place, unique to our country, brings doctors, lawyers, police and other services to a safe environment where the child is given priority consideration. It was described as a “community” effort where many well-trained staff and volunteers go to bat against a form of evil that makes my heart so heavy. This center has more than 250-300 open cases at any given time, but most people do not know it exists.

Unfortunately, the news is interested in other things. Concerning the selection of what to print, they say, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The good that people do, sometimes under the leading of God through faith and obedience, seldom gets printed. Besides that, our sin makes us want to read about people who are worse than ourselves.

However, whether we want to or not, in this life we do see awful things. This is not a surprise. Before He was crucified, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus overcame the world by refusing to enter into its sin. Instead, He resisted until He was crucified, not for the crimes charged to Him by the Jews and the Romans, but God laid on Him the sins of all humanity for all time and that sin killed Him. But His sinlessness meant that He could not stay dead. He rose from the grave and in the power of an eternal life, He offers hope to a sin-sick world.

Life can be difficult and look dark. Most of the news is bad news. But when my mind turns to the mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, and when I think about these truths that endure forever, I cannot help but praise the Lord.

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