The folly of man is that he lives as if he will not die.  He forgets that he has had a humble beginning and, despite all appearances now, he will have a humble end.  He thrives upon the illusion of his invincibility and the unreality of his perpetuity.

It is as if we are awakened in the middle of the story.  In vain, we refuse to acknowledge the Author and the ending which He has already written for us.  We willfully ignore that what has become will someday cease to be.  To live as if this is not true is madness and yet that is the pattern of mankind.  And so we live, senselessly, in the middle. We dance along the edges of our mortality as if death was not one misstep away.  We are like people on a journey who have forgotten our purpose and destination, riding hard to nowhere.  Such a journey could only be meaningless.

Living for Today

In light of this, some live only for the present. If the future is uncertain at best and complete oblivion at worst, then the only option is to get the most out of now.  Just listen to any current pop song and you get this philosophyIt could fall under the titles of Epicureanism or hedonism. Yesterday is already gone and tomorrow may never come so we had better get all we can out of life today.

The Apostle Paul understood this. He said, “if the dead are not raised, eat, drink, and be merry–for tomorrow we die!” (1Corinthians 15:32) If we have emerged from oblivion and will someday disappear back into oblivion, then all that lies between is for naught. Life begun by random chance and with no end or purpose is meaningless.  All we can do is (meaninglessly) soak up the pleasures of today.

Living for the Unattainable Day

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

Many, and I would say most, take a different approach. They have no real sense of their origin or final destination and yet they, incoherently, live as if their lives still have purpose. Ignoring the fact that unless there is an end to it all, it can be worth nothing, they work. They strive. For money perhaps. Or fame. Or power.

They live for a future day, a day when they will have finally gained enough money, enough success, enough pleasure. However, it is a day that will never come because they will never have enough. Enough money will always be the next thousand or the next million. Enough success will always be the next achievement. Enough pleasure will always be the next rush.  They are consumed by a thirst that cannot be quenched. They live for an unattainable day. The destination of their journey is always just out of reach and so, all their striving of the days in between is vain and meaningless.

Living for a Different Day

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Christians, on the other hand, are consumed by passion for a Day that is long past and a hope for a Day that is yet to come. We live in light of a Past Day on which Christ was raised from the grave, defeating sin and death in order to dispense grace and life. This is the Day which has launched us into a race and has guaranteed for us a definite and attainable finish line: the Eternal Day of life with God.

Strangely enough, this obsession with a past and future day is the only way to render all the days in between meaningful.  Every step of a a journey is purposeful only when it has begun somewhere and will end somewhere. My life now, today matters not because it is all that I have to live for but precisely because it is not all I have to live for. My life tomorrow, should it come, matters not because of an unfounded hope that it will bring me fulfillment, but because it brings me one step closer to that which I am certain of, but have not seen and that hope which I am already assured of and which already fulfills me.  We are like Abraham who by faith, “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  We are like the heroes of the faith who “were longing for a better country–a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).  

So, living in light of a Day long past and for a Day that has yet to come, all our days in between are enriched with meaning and purpose.  We live in the middle of a journey, but we are sensible, of the glory from which our eternal life has sprung and the glory for which our eternal life is bound.  We do not run aimlessly, but we know our destination and we know that is real and attainable. Indeed, it has already been attained for us.   For as surely as Christ has been raised from the dead on that Day long ago, the Day is coming when Christ will return and all who have trusted in His resurrection will dwell with Him forever.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth.  The dwelling place of God will be with men. “They will be his people, and God himself will be their god. He will wipe every tear from their eyes,. There will be no more death or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:3-4).  For He who is seated on the throne is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealedLiving, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
[ From: http://www.elyrics.net%5D

Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine

Oh, glorious day

Living for a Different Day

September 11th Reflections on God, Evil, and Psalm 10

Today is September 11th, a day on which acts of unspeakable horror were committed and thousands of innocent people lost their lives.  As I imagine many people did today, I went back in my mind to that day, that day of evil.  Where I was, what I was doing, and what I was thinking as I watched planes crash and buildings fall to the ground…Why?  It is a question we all ask at one time or another and I began thinking on it again today.  Why would God allow something like that to happen?  It is to be sure a serious and important question, one which has kept many from faith in God.

“Why O LORD, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1

Not Just Why, but Who?

However, I think an equally important question is not just why, but who?  In the face of evil and suffering, it is easy to become angry at God or even decide that it must mean God is not really real.  I think though that we must be careful to first consider the direct cause of evil in the world: ourselves.  We cry against the wrongs committed against men, but it is to be noted that these wrongs are done at the hands of other men.  This tells us two very significant things about mankind: one, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than all other species and two, we continuously fall short of this standard.

In our outrage at evil, we deny God’s existence and yet, if God is not real and we are but products of the blind and indifferent process of evolution in a universe with no ultimate justice, then our outcry against evil is completely unfounded.  We are nothing but animals and so we should look to the animals for example.  We can no more object to the murder of innocents than we can to the predator who takes his prey.  Yet, we know this cannot really do.  We cannot really live like that because we know whether we are willing to admit it or not that we are different from the animal.  We are held to a higher standard.

It is this fact that we do not want to face because if there is a standard, there is a judge and that is a frightening thing.  For just as we know that we are held to this higher standard, we know that we have not met it. Looking at the history of mankind, it is evident that there is something terribly, terribly wrong with us, something rotten at our very core.  So we most certainly should ask why God would allow evil, but we should not forget that it is we who have committed it.  It originates with us.

The Wicked Man

If we are the direct perpetrators of evil, then the question of “Why?” must not only be levied at God, but at ourselves.  What is it that is so wrong with us?  Why would a man or men commit such heinous acts as murder or terrorism?  The Bible gives us an answer.  It tells us about the wicked man.

“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.  He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.  In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all this thoughts there is no room for God….He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees'” (Psalm 10:2-4,11).  

The wicked man then is wicked because he does not fear God.  In his pride, he believes that God does not see his evil acts nor that He will call him to account.  It is slightly ironic that in reaction to evil so many deny God and assume He does not see when it is the denial of God which has led men into evil in the first place.  Evil has come into our hearts and our world because our hearts have turned from Him.

The Intellectual and Practical Answer of the Gospel

There still remains the question of, “Why, God?”  Intellectually, it is a question of logic.  How may a good and omnipotent God allow evil?  This is no easy question and I do not pretend to have it completely figured out, but I would say that I have come to peace with this question intellectually because the world would make less sense if there was no God.  If God is not real, then there is no higher standard and our objection to evil is unfounded.  We would not cry out as we do. And yet, we do.  I find then that our objection to evil is stronger evidence for God rather than against.  I argue more extensively for this here: https://emilysuzanne11.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/how-can-a-good-god-be-compatible-with-evil-and-suffering/

Practically as well, the theist is in a better position than the atheist.  If there is no God, then not only do we have no grounds for calling evil acts evil, but we also have no hope of evil being punished and the wrongs committed against us being brought to right.  We may, in our anger against injustice, eliminate God from the picture, but in so doing, we throw away our only hope for justice.  Thus we are left without the ability to call evil evil and without any hope of triumph over it.  The Christian, however, knows evil for what it is, the outpouring of the hearts of wicked men who have hated God, and also knows how justice will be served, either through the wrath of God on us or through the wrath of God on Christ who took the evil of man upon Himself in his death and defeated it in His resurrection.

The Personal Answer of the Gospel 

Finally and most importantly, the Gospel provides a personal answer to evil because it is a personal problem.  We are both the perpetrators and victims of evil.  We are broken people.  It would not be enough if God only punished evil because we would still be left sick and bleeding.  We need not only justice, but salvation.  Not only a judge and a victor, but someone to come to us in our suffering and bear our burdens with us. Jesus Christ is that person.

I remember while studying Philosophy in college, I went to hear the Christian philosopher Os Guiness speak on the problem of evil.  I was expecting an astoundingly insightful argument, something to blow me away.  When asked how a Christian comes to terms with evil and suffering, he smiled and said that you simply have enough faith in Jesus Christ.  I remember thinking, “That’s it?”  I felt slightly embarrassed in front of the atheists and agnostics in the room.  It seemed such a cliche and overly simplistic answer, but I realize now that it is anything but.

I have been married for a little over a year now.  I am not always with my husband so I do not always know what he is doing. Nor do I know what he is thinking all the time.  He is very different from me so I do not always understand the things he does or why he does them, but I do know him.  I know his character.  I know his commitment to love and protect me.  I have experienced his love and faithfulness to me.  So I know that I can trust him even when I do not understand or agree with all that he does.  I believe that he will honor his commitment to love me and that he will be faithful to the vows he made to me. My faith in him is based on my experience of him.

It is the same with Jesus Christ.  I do not doubt God in the face of great evil in the world because I know Jesus Christ.  I know Him personally. Through the Gospel, He has made His heart and character known to us. He has shown His unfailing commitment to rescue us from the evil we have wrought with our own hands by taking it upon Himself.  As Os Guiness said, “Christianity is the only religion whose God bears the scars of evil.”  Jesus has shown Himself to be good and trustworthy and so we trust Him even when it does not always make sense.  More on this here:  https://emilysuzanne11.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/how-can-a-good-god-be-compatible-with-evil-and-suffering-part-2/

The answer to evil then is not just some argument, or something, but someone: the person of Jesus Christ who will both “judge the world in righteousness” (Psalm 9:8) and “be a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).  He both avenges the afflicted and enters into their affliction with them.   In this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides all that we need in the face of evil: a judge, a victor, and a healer.

“But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.  Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.  The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (Psalm 10:14-18).