When the World is Falling Apart
A few days ago I was working on a devotion when I took a break to listen to the evening news. I sat in stunned silence as I listened to the reporter detail the savage execution of US journalist, James Foley. Hours later, I still couldn’t shake the horror of seeing Foley kneeling in the desert beside his executioner just moments before he was slain. I thought about this young man and his final moments, about what he may have endured since his disappearance in Syria almost two years ago, and about the ache and sorrow those in his family were surely experiencing. It was difficult to get back to work on my devotion which, oddly enough, was about finding joy – even in hard and difficult times.
Also, right here in our own nation, another “war” has erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. The shooting sparked protests, as well as looting, vandalism, and growing violence. The unrest led to the declaration of a state of emergency and imposed curfews by the Governor of Missouri. Presently, the National Guard has been activated to assist police in maintaining order. Once again, it was difficult to work on my devotion on joy as I thought about all the lives affected and reeling from events in Ferguson.
Can we really have joy when it seems that the world is falling apart? I scroll through Facebook and it seems that life goes on – new births, smiling brides and grooms, anniversaries, graduations, first day of school pics, and even ice bucket challenges – events that seem so far removed from executions in the Middle East and the rioting and violence in the Midwest. As I prepare for a family reunion this weekend, I almost feel guilty. But then I remembered the following advice and encouragement that Paul offered to the Roman believers: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
We live in a fallen world, a world that is broken and infected with sin and evil. Bad things happen. But the Bible tells us that God sent Jesus to save the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). This hope that we have in Jesus is what brings joy to a believer – yes, even in the hard times. You see, when I think about all the bad things happening in our world as well as the many personal tragedies we hear about every day such as broken hearts and homes, illness, disease, and death; I can rejoice knowing that Jesus has already overcome and won the victory for all who trust in Him. One day Jesus will return and we will be through with this sin-sick, destructive old world. We will finally know that perfect world that God originally created for us. But for now, we wait, as Christ, in His great mercy, longs for all men to be saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
In the meanwhile, we’re citizens of Heaven while living here on earth. Jesus warned His disciples before He was crucified that they would have trouble in this world.
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (John 16:1-4).
But Jesus also reminded them that this fallen world was not the end.
“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).
Yes, my heart has been sad this week as these fresh images of a world falling apart join so many others we’ve witnessed in just the last few years – school shootings, gang violence, and countless other persecutions. But, yes, we can still have joy because of Jesus. I can rejoice in the One who came to save us and give us hope when it seems that there is no hope. May we all remember Paul’s instruction to the Romans and “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
“ But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
(2 Peter 3:10-13)