Living with the Unlivable
October 20, 2022 | Jim Angehr
Welcome to part deux of a quick consideration of a huge issue–––how to cope with the seemingly accelerated pace of tragic occurrences around the world.
We begin with lament.
From there, I’d identify what I perceive as three “ditches” we can fall into as a result of the onslaught of calamity. In the face of bad news after bad news, it’s easy enough for us to become:
––– Destroyed. We’ve all been there. Just too many catastrophes, and we’re eventually sunk.
––– Deadened. Perhaps as a defense against coming undone, we callous over. Whereas previously we may have deeply mourned a horrible event, now it simply bounces off of us. We’ve hurt too much to keep on hurting.
––– Demonizing. This one is tricky, since when something like an injustice or attack occurs, it’s good and right to be angry at the instigator(s). However, be careful that you don’t allow your righteous indignation to curdle into demagoguery. Responses to 9/11 way back when provide a cautionary tale here. Should we have been shocked and furious? Yes. But recall, too, all of the virulent anti-Islamic/anti-Arabic rhetoric that was spun to life after the Twin Towers fell. Demonizing others is never ultimately satisfying to us. It’s the equivalent of junk food calories––you receive a quick rush, but it's unhealthy in large quantities.
All right then, if we don’t want to be destroyed, deadened, or demonizing, where might we turn? In my mind, the resources of the Christian story enable us uniquely to weather tragedy well, relatively speaking.
Quick review of what the Bible tell us is the story of our world: God created all things, including us, good, but we’ve messed things up and consequently live in a fallen reality of sin, death, strife, and injustice. But the good news is that in Jesus, God is bringing our messed up world back to a place of being made whole, and he’s doing it by grace.
And so we’re able to grieve with hope by virtue of a promised future that will feature both a reckoning and a renewal. Regarding the former, God will finally judge sin, wrongdoing, and injustice for what they truly are, yet at the same time and in view of the latter, God will redeem his people in the context of a world-and-cosmos remade and with sadness and evil removed.
Reckoning and renewal constitute a necessary partnership. Reckoning without renewal means that even if faults are exposed and justice served, everything nevertheless remains broken. (That someone pays for a crime, for example, doesn't nullify the infraction itself.) Renewal without reckoning turns a blind eye to evil.
(Don’t forget, too, that both reckoning and renewal are vitally connected to the cross of Jesus. Without the crucifixion and resurrection, reckoning and renewal are only comforting bedtime stories at best. They're benign deceptions.)
Ask God for the Spirit’s help to frame today’s trouble in light of tomorrow’s reckoning and renewal. It won’t magically make all of the bad things go away, but we can have hope that some day, they will.