A mere half-hour watching the news today can fill one with despair as we witness the effects of greed, selfishness, and depravity. It pains the heart to see the utter devastation of the downtrodden. As we take in such brokenness it can lead us to lower our weary heads and simply trudge through life one day at a time—hope for a better tomorrow diminishing with each passing moment.
“House of Herod,” reads the heading to a chart in my study Bible. The graphic shows a family tree beginning with Herod “the Great.” He’s known—among other things—for killing the baby boys of Bethlehem. Herod fathered Herod Antipas, who married his brother’s ex-wife and executed John the Baptist. There’s Salome, the granddaughter whose dance “won” that execution. Don’t forget Herod Agrippa I, the grandson who murdered James the brother of John (see Acts 12:1–2).
According to The Wall Street Journal, there’s a new fad among top-level executives. It’s called humility. One former leader states that humility “is the flavor du jour.” Companies prize humble leaders because they listen well and share the limelight. Of course, the leaders have to actually be humble. Fakers abound, like a former executive who constantly stole the limelight from subordinates. According to one observer, “He didn’t understand the humility part of being humble.”
When I was first called to pastor a church, my family and I were, frankly, broke! I had just finished Bible college and my wife had been homeschooling our young daughters. The church was in a popular area, and house prices were at a premium. We needed a home, but they were all so very expensive. We really liked one place, but had no money for a deposit or to offer for rent. The real estate agent asked us if we wanted it.
The Laingsburg flood of 1981 was the worst of its kind in South African history. In two days nearly half a meter (almost 17 inches) of rain fell, 104 people died, and 184 houses were destroyed. The town of Laingsburg was built close to the “dry river bed” of the Buffalo River. What the town engineers failed to realize, however, is that this relatively small river floods its banks every 100 years or so. Although the local farmers were initially grateful for the rain, their relief soon turned to dread as a six-meter (almost twenty-foot) wall of water rushed through the town, carrying with it people, animals, houses, and belongings.
Gary Alexander had the job of demolishing some buildings that were more than a hundred years old. After reducing the structures to rubble, he noticed part of a wall still standing. These words were scrawled on the bricks: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47
In Charles M. Schulz’s classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown set out to buy a Christmas tree. As the play’s director, Charlie was determined that his theatrical work would not reflect the commercialization of Christmas that he saw all around him.
Two passages in Luke 1 are often called “songs” because of their similarity to the Old Testament psalms. The Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) is well known. But the “Benedictus” (Luke 1:67-79), which is taken from blessed or praise, the first word in the Latin translation, is less known. Filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions, the Benedictus speaks of the work of the Messiah and the work of His messenger (Luke 1:69,80).
At times I’m hesitant to invite others to pray for me. If, for example, I say, “Please pray for me, I’m experiencing a spiritual attack in a certain area,” do I sound arrogant? Do I sound as if I think I’ve done something so important the enemy’s trying to stop me? Am I possibly calling something a spiritual attack that’s actually a consequence of something I’ve done or haven’t done? Will friends and ministry partners grow weary of repeated requests for prayer? Are my prayer needs too personal to share?
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
“You can’t get blood from a rock.” That saying, used sometimes in my part of the world, means that we can’t get from another person or situation what simply isn’t there. For example, I might say, “I can’t get blood from a rock” when I’m trying to collect a debt from someone who doesn’t have the money to repay me. Trying to acquire cash from someone who isn’t capable of providing it is impossible.
Renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) left an unusual last will and testament. Because he found English spelling rules unnecessarily confusing (which they are!), he requested that the United Kingdom adopt a phonetic alphabet he had created to simplify things. He even left a large portion of his estate to implement the plan. Schoolchildren would have been forever grateful to Shaw, but alas, the courts deemed the request “impossible.” The money went to other causes.
A friend of mine faced a difficult task. Steve discovered that a leader in his church was involved in some sinful activities. After seeking wise and confidential counsel, Steve met with the leader and nervously but firmly urged him to turn from his sin and change his ways. The leader left the meeting distraught. Later, his daughter called Steve in tears. “Dad has locked himself in his room,” she said, “and he says he’s never coming out.”
For seven years, I was at home fulltime with our kids. While I did freelance work to bring in some income, I enjoyed the flexibility and routine of that season. Meals were normally served on time, I was able to deep clean my house regularly, and I enjoyed throwing baby showers and other ways of blessing others. When I returned to fulltime work, my state of normal changed, and I had to shift my expectations.
It’s truly difficult to sit beside someone who’s grieving or in despair, a person who has taken one hit after another and has lost all hope. Whenever we surrender hope, our life slowly ebbs from us. We may continue to put one foot in front of the other, but we can no longer see the beauty around us. We no longer find joy in our life or in relationship with others. We see only gloom, and we find it nearly impossible to move toward light and love.