Many of us today find ourselves struggling in some way, whether it is financially, career-wise, with illness of one kind or another or depression, with our families and friends and just with the constant barrage of negativity that surrounds us day in and day out. The bad news never seems to end, and rarely is there any real good news; prices of goods go up, gas and electric goes up, food prices go up, petrol for cars goes up, and wages and benefits stay the same; everything goes up and very rarely if ever comes down. On top of this, we find ourselves at odds with God in some way; we pray, but He doesn’t seem to hear; we struggle against sin in our lives but always come off losing the battle; we know God wants something better for us but we don’t know what it is; we want so many things but find that we just can’t have them; we struggle to make better lives for ourselves but only seem to be making more work for ourselves while we struggle vainly to go nowhere. On top of all this, God seems absent, seems He is busy doing other things and we just can’t seem to find Him or catch His attention anyway.
What started out as wonderful promise has become stale, has become ‘old-hat’, commonplace, tedious and even boring. We know we want something, but we don’t know what it is that we do want. Things just can’t seem to get any worse. We do our duty, take the rubbish out, feed the cat, pay the bills, do all the things we are meant to and still after it all we feel an emptiness, a numbness, a raw stretch of pain across our hearts that never goes away no matter what we do. Is life meant to be exciting, is it meant to be boring, just what is the purpose of life anyway?
Depression can steal all our happiness, can make us see the world in an extremely negative light and can make us moody, miserable and unreliable. The mood swings a person can suffer with depression means that one day they can be deliriously high and the next day crushingly low; the deliriousness comes from the fact that for the time being the depressed person feels a lull in the worst moments of depression, and the worst moments come from the fact that the illness has a grip again. The truth seems to be that both extremes, feeling extremely high one minute and extremely low the next, are emotions that should be experienced occasionally and not all the time. Depression can steal everything good, and can make everything appear lost and without hope.
We see in the Old Testament the trials of Israel, the Israelites; the story of the OT is at best a story of skewed relationship, God’s perfect love and Israel’s usual half-hearted love. God always knew the Israelites, and of course us too, would mess up from time to time. In my own life, I struggle with frustration after frustration; I certainly am at this present time. I can’t see the wood for the trees and I am in trackless wastes with no seeming end or way out. I find myself struggling, struggling to remain calm even when I feel angry, struggling to see God’s purpose in my life when nothing seems to go right, struggling to make sense of it all when all I feel is unwell and out of sorts all the time. Even when I try to do what is right minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day, month after month and year in year out, I still feel miserable. In spite of God’s warnings to Israel, He knew that they, to put it politely, would mess up, would stop loving Him and start loving other things like money and power and sex and the accumulation of land and property and commodities; in the rush to make themselves prosperous, the Israelites forgot about the one person who had made it all possible; what an irony! Are we any better than backsliding Israel? One look around you at humans in general will probably tell you that answer. But what about us Christians, us paragons of virtues, us latter day saints, the called and the chosen; what about us? Well, sometimes I despair of Christianity and some Christians, or those calling themselves Christians; often organised Christianity seems just as worldly and just as much about power and wealth and social standing than it is about our relationship with Jesus. If Christians, those supposed to serve God with a whole heart, are just as worldly and selfish as anyone else, what’s the point of being a Christian after all? But in this chaotic world, this topsy-turvy planet we live on, through all the injustice and rampant unfairness that sometimes passes for society, God knows His own. ‘We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.’ (Romans 8:28 NJB)
The Best is Yet to Come
Even in despair, even in our most hopeless moments, even when everything seems irretrievably lost, there is a God who understands our pain, and understands our yearnings for a better life. He isn’t a God of religion, He is an unfathomable God, uncontainable, uncontrollable, even dangerous and subversive, and certainly wrathful to those who challenge Him. But here also is a gentle God, a God of summer breezes and a God of playful kittens and the softest of touches, a God who is big enough to know all about us, but intimate enough to want to get involved with who we are and what we are about. He is a God of relationship, a God who will walk with us, laugh with us, cry with us and feel our pain when we are down and feel our joy when we are up. This isn’t religion, it is reality, a God-centred reality, one that no one can steal from you and that is more priceless than all the gold and all the diamonds in the world. All the money in the world might not make you happy, but God can transform your life and He can give you a second chance, even when the world has written you off.
The best is yet to come! I wait fervently, even patiently sometimes, for a change in my circumstances; nothing much seems to happen; I pray, pray a bit more, read my Bible for inspiration and have hope and faith that God will begin to work in my life. In the end, that’s all I can do; that’s all anyone can do after all. Who can force God’s hand and who wants to tell God to get a move on? Not me anyway! But as we wait, things become clearer, and even though we suffer and we are impatient at best, things begin to make more sense; all the while God is working behind the scenes, preparing us better things and answering our prayers. Yes, the best is yet to come. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10 NJB)