Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the LORD.Hebrews12:14
The Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples that “they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1). Emotional, mental and physical exhaustion is a fact of life for the Christian as for others. One does not stop believing, but sometimes the effort to practice faith can become weak and wearisome. One may not feel much enthusiasm for Biblical truths that once stirred the heart to joy, tears and zeal. Like Christian in Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, one can fall into the Slough of Despond, places of depression and despair. Jesus had predicted that “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12). The exhaustion we feel is not totally our fault, but can be traced to the pressures of life that overwhelm us.
Earth and its wars, earthquakes, famines, pandemics, bad news, increasing costs of everything, rising crime, floods of immorality that corrupt everyone, contradictory confusions which clamour for our allegiance – all these, plus efforts to be mature, self-controlled, wise managers of our lives, to gain respect from peers, to live in peace without fear – it can be quite burdensome. Most are not coping, young and old. Behind the masks of arrogance, aggression, self-satisfaction, boasting, partying, defiant partisanships, are persons who are living existences of quiet despair.
As many get older, they trust man and God less. They have hurt and been hurt. Many don’t know how to get out of the traps of memory and unforgiveness, broken hearts, betrayals, personal failures. To listen to men around a table of rum, dominoes and fried chicken is to hear souls of people who have grown to hate and distrust their women, children, neighbours, fellow employees, politicians and are only temporarily at ease with their present watering-hole companions. Disillusionment hangs heavy in their mocking, cynical opinions. Women, still the most vulnerable, left responsible for care of too many children, shamed by the humiliation of public infidelities, victims of the abuse of frustrated domesticity, also develop their own cynicisms, their own soap-opera-learned slynesses. They use various self-defensive methods supported by the secret avenues of social media, to cope with the intolerable burdens of deep, frustrating unhappiness.
It is out of this harsh reality of life’s burdens that faith in Christ saves. Saves from despair, doubtings and soul-destroying hatreds. Into the midst of this valley of the shadow of suffering and death comes the voice of the Creator and Saviour. The Bible revelation says with authority that our Creator lives and is concerned about us. Why He chooses to allow the misery of this planet to go on is a mystery that He alone can answer. Against all our unanswered questions, the God and Saviour presented in the Bible calls to humanity, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28).
The church is filled with tired, exhausted people who have had and still have their share of troubles down in this valley. They too struggle to hold on to faith in a world full of trouble which also comes upon them. Yet it is their faith, no matter how fatigued or mocked, that differentiates them from the unbelieving neighborhoods they inhabit. Their faith in Jesus Christ is the boundary line, the protecting wall, the city of refuge that keeps them from desperate acts of despair that destroy many who are without faith in God. “…he who comes to God must believe that He exists and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith works for the believer.
For believers in the Deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Bible is the revealed Word of God, inerrant, infallible, inspired. It is revelation from God. God exists, Jesus Christ is His Divine Son born into the human race and the Saviour of all who trust in Him. This world, so full of incredible evil and suffering, has a destined end. The Bible presents Life, Death, Resurrection, Judgement, and Eternity as the signposts that lie before every human being. Death is not the end. For the believer, it is a merciful release from this place of so much suffering.
Faith in Christ Jesus, secured by growth “in grace and knowledge,” is a source of strength and survival. Many Christian people can give testimony to this. The Bible teaches that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). After all the theology, denominational divisions, daily battles with world, flesh and devil, after all fears and doubts, mockery of the world – one comes down to a single man or woman or youth kneeling with tears, sorrow, hope, trust, certainty – kneeling before the God of the Bible who is there, invisible, but there, saying aloud or silently, from deep within the soul – “Lord, what will You have me to do? Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner; create in me a clean heart o God and renew a right spirit within me; thank you Lord for your mercy and love.” And the listening heart of faith, led by Holy Scripture, hears the word of God, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, I am your God, I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10).
Faith, in the midst of the increasing bad news, natural disasters, horrendous crimes, anchors itself to God even more firmly. Maturity teaches how uncertain daily life is. The words of Jesus cannot be dismissed: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. (Matthew 24:44). But if one is tempted to argue over Christ’s promised coming, few would dispute the words of James 4:14,15: “..you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘if the LORD wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”
Down in the valley, deep, dark, troubled, uncertain, faith in Christ and His resurrection, is a certain victory. For now, and eternity.
IN MEMORIAM: GUY ELLIS, JOURNALIST AND EDITOR 1944-2023.