November 25, 2013
History runs on a straight line; but life seems to be a carousel.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” (Charles Dickens; the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities, in 1859).
Every day’s headlines are a surprise, but it sure feels like we’re going around in circles. The circumstances are constantly changing, but – after awhile – life can feel like it’s a song that’s stuck in the chorus. We seem to be going in emotional circles here. Why is that?
Western culture has an economy dependent on well-supplied people wanting more. Most of us don’t struggle with survival; our lives rise and fall based on our ability to meet the levels of personal preference and cultural desirability. Enough isn’t enough; more is the minimum for satisfaction. That’s problematic: there is no upper limit on the more gauge.
Dickens could have been writing about our world; 154 years have passed, but the human condition hasn’t changed much. It was the best of times: the Dow ended last week at 16,064 – the highest mark in history. Publicly-traded corporations are doing great, while people are despairing and disillusioned. Companies are sitting on cash; families are scrambling for Christmas money. It is the best of times, for some… and the worst of times, for many more.
Wait: time out. It’s Thanksgiving week, celebrated at the latest possible calendar date. We’ll gather around tables on Thursday, reaching for the right words to describe our perspective about life, circa 2013. What will we have to say, when asked: “What are you thankful for?”
Here’s some advice, from Solomon’s wisdom: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
If these are good times, for you: be happy. Don’t let the conditions around you rattle your ability to enjoy the provision of God on your behalf. When you report your gratitude on Thursday, don’t hold back. It’s okay to celebrate your circumstances.
But, if these are bad times for you: disconnect your emotions and, instead, speak from your intellect. “Consider this” is Solomon’s counsel to calculate reality. God is in control, and He holds your future… and, if you’re in a relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus, you are part of something that stretches from here into Eternity. Current conditions are not the final status report.
You may not get a chance to say it to the folks around your table on Thursday, but you can find personal solace in Paul’s informed perspective: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-21)
Best of times? Be happy. Worst of times? Be thoughtful. The game isn’t over yet; today’s scene is not the final act in the drama of your life, or of history. The One who wrote the story is starring as the Hero, and He is weaving the plot to an ultimate conclusion that will have everyone on their feet: “the glory that will be revealed in us!”
For that, we can give thanks Thursday… and, every day! I’m grateful for the chance to challenge your thinking on Mondays. May you and yours find power in gratitude this Thanksgiving!