It is now easier than ever to stay connected. Through the advances of technology, specifically telecommunications and high-speed transmission of data and signals, we are able to see and hear the news from nearly corner of the world and even out into the galaxies. This new ability to connect has opened up amazing new possibilities that we are just beginning to explore. We are now able to peer over the fences of the world to see and learn and know even more.
This new accessibility leads us back into some well-worn ruts, however. Take happiness, for instance. We have always been too interested in keeping up with our neighbors. We have always turned too quickly to measuring against someone else’s reality rather than searching our own hearts for answers to how we are doing (think of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4). Thomas Merton wrote, “Why can we not be content with the secret gift of happiness that God offers us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist, rather, on a happiness that is approved by the magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing. We do not think we can be happy with a happiness that has no price tag on it.” (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966.)
We look to others for approval and affirmation of our right place in more than just happiness, though. We do the same in difficult times, don’t we?
Our world right now is overrun with sadness. It comes in cycles, but this cycle seems to be particularly deep and more disturbing. The earthquake that rocked Japan and the resulting tsunami have shaken every person alive. The continuing coverage of terror, desolation, and possible nuclear crisis appears to have no end. Combine with it national debates and bad-behavior in politics, with local stories of taxes, murder, and failing test scores, and we are overcome by a wave of negativity.
So where do we turn when things go wrong? Your answer to that question will shape your whole life. If you listen to the rest of the world, then our views will naturally follow those of the world. Right now much of the world is taken by pessimism, dejection, terror, anger, resentment, and despair.
The scriptures tell a different story. In the midst of heartache there is hope. In the midst of desolation there is promise. When things arrive at the worst they could be, God is present in amazing ways. From the days of Noah, to Moses and captives in Egypt, to disciples scared and running for their lives from a hill in Palestine, God is at work saving the world. This is not the lead story on the news channel, and it probably not what the guy behind you in line is saying, but it is the truth. It is the Gospel. It is the Good News that will save the world. God is present, even in the storm.