November 20, 2017

Orientation: All’s Right with the World

tangle trees pond, meissner

By Chaplain Mike

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven —
All ‘s right with the world!

• Robert Browning, “Pippa’s Song”

When we are walking through seasons of orientation, life is good. These are days of stability, order, peace, and predictability. We feel content, untroubled. The surface of our sea is calm. The road before us is level, smooth, broad, and uncrowded. We sleep well and awaken in the morning refreshed, ready to face the day. We do our daily work with strength and confidence. Relationships are free from conflict. Whatever stressors threaten to press in on us, they are well controlled. We can laugh freely, enjoy good food, good times, and the fellowship of family and friends.

There are psalms and proverbs that picture this “blessed” life. Psalm 23 is perhaps the most familiar:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name. (NLT)

This is the song of a satisfied sheep! Experiencing God’s goodness and mercy every day, he describes what life is like in a season of contentment, assurance, and hope.

Psalms and scriptures of orientation speak of and to those seasons of life when we enjoy a sense of well being and stability.

  • In these times we praise the God of creation, who bestows his good favor upon us in the regular cycles of nature.
  • We give thanks for the beneficence of the God of providence, from whose hand we welcome sunshine and rain, as well as his good gifts of food, health, human fellowship, family, and stable economic and political circumstances.
  • We also honor the God of wisdom, whose ways are right and good and pleasant.

These themes are prominent in the Wisdom literature of the First Testament. In these writings, the children of Israel celebrate their Creator, the One who spoke all things into being and then pronounced them good. They praise the King who gave them the Promised Land, a land of abundance. They honor the Torah-Giver, who provided them with wise commands and instructions, that they might order their lives according to his good ways.

early spring 2, meissner

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast.
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

• Proverbs 3:13-24 (NASB)

There are some subtle temptations that may beset us in times of orientation.

The first is the temptation to forget God. Somehow, when life is good, we easily fall into thinking that it is because we made it that way and we forget the Source of all our blessings. We stop saying “thank you” and start taking the credit.

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God…

…Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’  “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…

• Deuteronomy 8:11-18

A second temptation is to become smug and critical of others. When I have it good and start thinking that I deserve my prosperity, I view those who don’t have it so good as inferior. From my self-righteous, self-congratulatory position, I look down on others and suspect that their troubles are the result of being less responsible, not as wise and not as productive as I have been. It’s as simple as that. I’m better! I’m a winner and they are losers. Now whether or not there is truth in any of that is beside the point. For we all stand wholly dependent on God’s gracious provision. Even if I have more talent or drive than the next person, it is because God has endowed me with those gifts, not because I am intrinsically superior. If anything, greater gifts place a higher obligation on a person to show extraordinary kindness, forbearance, and generosity toward others, especially those who are not presently enjoying stability, abundance, and peace.

Third, we might be tempted to assume that the state of orientation is normal and expected. That is, I may get lulled into thinking that life will just continue to go on like this, that it should continue to go on like this, and that if it doesn’t keep going on like this, either God has let me down or there is something abnormal or wrong with me. Jesus said plainly, “In the world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). If creation itself is groaning, we will join the chorus in various seasons of our lives. “Normal” in a fallen world means “change and decay in all around I see.” Our hope lies not in the unchanging beneficence of the world, but in the abiding love, mercy, and goodness of God.

Fourth, we may lose our hunger for the new creation. When life is good in this world, it can be incredibly pleasurable. There are sources of enjoyment to keep us occupied and satisfied for many lifetimes. Christians should not deny this and speak ill of this world’s glories. God called his creation good for good reason. We need not fear nor shrink from savoring life. Nevertheless, there is a perspective to maintain. However sumptuous the feast now, in the age to come it will be immeasurably more satiating. However glorious the music, we cannot imagine the thrill of the new creation chorus and symphony. However tender and heartwarming the most intimate of relationships, they cannot compare with the Divine embrace. Enjoy, but stay hungry.

Nevertheless, in these days, God may bless with extended seasons of orientation, when life is good. In those seasons, we would be wise to heed the counsel of the Preacher:

After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

• Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, MSG

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*Note: Today’s artwork from the website of yvonne meissner.

Comments

  1. In regards to the world and Christians one of the questions I have is this… Can an evangelical Christian be happy? Can they enjoy the moment? Enjoy a freindship with a non-Christian? Can they have hobbies? Can they love a dog? Can they take family vacations and enjoy them?

    When life is ordinary, (speaking of when I was a evangelical Christian) I carried a lot of guilt. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy the moment, couldn’t enjoy friends from outside the church, etc.. No that was wrong. I heard so much about evangelism and salvation and telling everyone you came into contact about Jesus that I really felt like Christianity robbed me or life. To the point where I could never enjoy the good times nor ordinary times. Every waking moment had to be spent evangelizing in the name of Christ because you could be the ONLY one who could save a person from hell, if you tell them about Jesus. Of course if you fail to do that properly than you also feel guilty about that as well.

    I had a disturbing experience on Saturday. I drove up to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C.to play tourist. A friend of mine gave me a series on Ecclessiates from Matt Chandler and asked me to listen to them. I agreed. So I think it was in the second sermon Matt Chandler said something to the following…”God wil be graceful if I die in a hospital gasping for breath…” He also proceeded to talk about how he was walking out of the hospital and was wondering who knew Jesus and who didn’t? And I got so pissed becuase it goes back to the manipulation I encountered when I was a “fundegelical”. You were responsible for the salvatiuon of others…it all rests of your shoulders. Your grocery store clerk, neighbor, teller at the bank, etc…all need to be told Jesus and it rests with you. Thus by being in a system like that you can’t enjoy the ordinary moments. You can’t enjoy a freindship with a non-Christian and you can’t learn to enjoy an event such as a sunrise (or whatever…) . Okay…
    I’m done…

    Maybe it’s me but sometimes given how evangelisim was treated I felt like an evangelical overdosed on “Adderall” becuase you need to evangelize anyone and everyone under the sun at 100 mph…. As a result you miss out on a lot of life.

    Anyone understand what I am saying? I’m tryint tie this into the post….I hope I didn’t screw it up.

    • Dear Eagle ~ I could have written your comment today!! As they say, “Been there, done that.” For almost 35 years no less. Then my own world crashed down around my head. Now, I am trying to find my way on a new road. But what I have learned, much to the Lord’s relief I’m sure, is that He can get along just fine without me. As you say, I can enjoy life without feeling that I am always on duty. You know, I have to be the Apostle Paul or nothing. Trying to find my balance. I actually have left “fundegelical” church and have an appointment to speak with a pastor of a liturgical church this week!! Much to the credit of the Internet Monk (thanks Mike & Mike) and a wonderful book titled, “The Spirituality of the Cross” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. So, YES, I understand what you are saying completely. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is FREEDOM. 2 Corinthians 3:17

      • Eagle and Adrienne,
        I can relate to both of you. In my college years, I became involved with a Campus Crusade for Christ type group. I feel like I missed so much of what I could have achieved and experienced because I was always on the look-out for “mission” prospects. Later, I experienced the ultra-liturgical group. I get the concept in theory, but the coldness and rigidity, especially at a bad time in my life, was not conducive to my continuing with that. I think liturgy is beautiful, but I ran into so many “liturgical Nazis” for whom the medium had become the message, and did not want to concern themselves with life’s troubles, especially mine, but held on to the knowledge that at some point, your spirit will outlive this earth and then it’ll all be cool; in the meantime, just keep doin’ that liturgy, having the correct docrtinal stance, and voting Republican. Not much comfort when you are struggling day to day with joblessness or grief. I think I’m much happier without either and continue looking for the middle ground which will allow me to just be and take life as it comes, hopefully, sharing a kind thought or gentle expression of compassion with a few fellow life travellers along the way.

    • Uuummm yeah, I totally understand what you’re saying! Here’s a long story short:

      I raised both of my daughters out of the church. The last thing I wanted was for them to experience the same things I had. When they were little (ages 2-5), my mom took them to Sunday School, but other than that…..nada!

      Fast forward to 2007. I re-commit my life to Jesus and He begins a CRAZY work in my life. Though I still had (and have) some legalistic, fundamental beliefs that completely jack with my peace, I kind of freak out that I didn’t raise them “right” (whatever that means!). I felt some guilt over it, I asked for forgiveness because I needed it (on MANY levels!) and I turned my oldest daughter over to the Lord on her 21st birthday. In that moment, once the prayer was prayed (an internal prayer), I felt the most enormous amount of peace envelope me. Something I had never experienced and to that level haven’t since. I knew He heard me. I knew she was His to be had. In the meantime, I just go on living my life…….being a mom, a wife, and over all fun girl. With a few less bad words and more prayers before meals kind of thing *smile*

      Oh, this is becoming a long story long……

      I’ll cut to the point. I continued to pray for her (and my other family members as well), leaving her life and her salvation in God’s Hands. I have a pretty lousy track record for doing things right, everyone is far better off in His Hands vs mine anyway! And guess what?????

      She was baptized last month! She will be 25 this year!

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

      God IS in control. I am not. I am asked to trust Him (which some days I totally suck at!). And yes…..I have fun. It’s a different kind of fun than before Christ. But fun none the less.

      That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

      • “I felt the most enormous amount of peace envelope me.”

        Thank you for writing about this. You have given a beautiful testimony of experiencing God’s grace.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In regards to the world and Christians one of the questions I have is this… Can an evangelical Christian be happy? Can they enjoy the moment? Enjoy a freindship with a non-Christian? Can they have hobbies? Can they love a dog? Can they take family vacations and enjoy them?

      A lot of them can’t. Because of what the original Internet Monk called “Wretched Urgency”. And that favorite line of Hal Lindsay/Left Behind fanboys in their cage phase, “It’s All Gonna Burn.”

      Somehow I think Jesus’ line “I came that you may have Life, and have it more abundantly” wasn’t supposed to mean this. Aging, I find myself more and more seeing “Abundant Life” more in the sense of the Jewish emphasis on Live Your Life — “L’Chaim!”

      • > L’Chaim <

        God would like us to be joyful even though our hearts lie panting on the floor. How much more can we be joyful, when there's really something to be joyful for.

        • Christiane says:

          I attended a Friday-night shabbat dinner at the home of my friend who had just learned that her son’s illness would be terminal. The ceremony was beautiful, white table linens, the candles, the prayers. So beautiful.

          I asked her how she was able to do all this, and she told me that, even in the midst of trouble, there was the command to celebrate life. I have never forgotten that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      When life is ordinary, (speaking of when I was a evangelical Christian) I carried a lot of guilt.

      “When life is ordinary…” Ever heard of The Little Way of St Therese of Lisieux? About how Holiness could come in ordinary life, how Holiness was acheivable in everyday routine? I don’t know much about the details, but it sounds like a needed counterbalance to “Work! For the Night is Coming!” Wretched Urgency.

      (Some of my “everyday routine” now is building plastic models every Monday night at the local Knights of Columbus Hall with other modellers and gamers, returning to a creative hobby I was forced to abandon some 35 years ago. No pressure, no Wretched Urgency, nothing Spiritual (TM). For those Hobby Night Mondays, I’m back to living a life — “L’Chaim!”)

    • Maybe it’s me but sometimes given how evangelisim was treated I felt like an evangelical overdosed on “Adderall” becuase you need to evangelize anyone and everyone under the sun at 100 mph…. As a result you miss out on a lot of life.

      Here’s a topic for future inclusion into a thoughtful iMonk post: The Great Commission.

      Since I did not grow up in an Evangelical Protestant environment, that aspect of being an effective, if not constant, ‘witness for Jesus’ was never my cross to bear…

      However, once I joined the Evangelical faith expressions I was introduced to this over-emphasized aspect of not-so-subtle Christianese expectation. How do others deal with this? Is there such a thing as balance? Is it a misrepresentation of Jesus’ intent? I have never felt any grand evangelical zeal to ‘witness’ to everyone I encounter throughout the day. I am much more conscious of being a blessing to those I encounter using the least words possible. Anyway, I think this is a good consideration worth discussing in greater detail…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Here’s a topic for future inclusion into a thoughtful iMonk post: The Great Commission.

        Make it a series, and kick it off with the classic “Wretched Urgency”.

        I was introduced to this over-emphasized aspect of not-so-subtle Christianese expectation. How do others deal with this? Is there such a thing as balance? Is it a misrepresentation of Jesus’ intent? I have never felt any grand evangelical zeal to ‘witness’ to everyone I encounter throughout the day.

        Then you are (1) Talking the Talk, not Walking the Walk (TM/glib Christainese); (2) Lukewarm and “I shalt spew thee out of my mouth” (TM/Book of Revelation); and/or before the Great White Throne “BEGONE FROM ME YE CURSED INTO EVERLASTING FIRE; JOIN THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS!” (TM/Jack Chick).

        That’s what it comes down to in a lot of cases. God has his Hell pistol pressed to the back of your head with the hammer back and two pounds of pull on a three-pound trigger. Again, “Wretched Urgency” and the accompanying crazy desperation.

      • Joseph-

        This was that sense of urgency that swallowed me when I was an evangelical. My friends, people who I assciated with, etc.. all stemmed from this awful belief system. Since evangelism was the goal I always looked for that opportunity. Gave books to people to read, and pursued some freindships with the opportunity to evangelize. Carried the 4 Spiritual Laws in my wallet like a good “fundegelcial” Hell when I left my last job in 2005 I sent out an email to the office quoting scripture and challenging them to be Christians and have faith in Christ. I was largely brainwashed. I look back at everything now and think..”What the &&^*O was I thinking!!!???” It realy stole a lot of life. My life was operated from that mindset. Today it really burns me, and when my faith fell apart some evangelicals I knew did the only thing the know how to do…they evangelized me. Today as someone who believes in nothing…I feel like I can enjoy life and enjoy the moment more. However, having been in that screwed up system for a decade I still have this tendancy to want to evangelize that co-worker, neighbor, leave a 4 Spiritual Laws pamplet with the paid bill as part of the tip (even though I don’t have any…) It was such a warped way to live…

    • Martin Romero says:

      I’m rather new in the Evangelical fields. During the last couple of years I’ve been attending an Anglican Evangelical congregation which, although it is rather conservative in its theology, for all I know it does not probably fit the “fundamentalist mold”… Maybe it’s because I’m in England and things seem to be somewhat different over here.

      Anyway, I will dare to say that my background is in some ways similar to Eagle’s… If I remember correctly you said you were involved with Mormonism in the past, no? Coming into “mainstream Christianity” from the sidelines meant that I had to re-consider a lot of my ideas, words, points of view… Something that really impressed me initially, when I joined the Christian Union at my university, was to meet so many young students being really excited about telling others about Jesus. It was a kind of cultural shock for me, after years of “evangelism” meaning only proclaiming the “good news” about our particular branch of religion.

      The question is that I’ve been reading and thinking a lot during the last few months, and came to the realisation that the Evangelical world seems to me a tad bit “noisy”. It’s not easy to put into words, but there are a million different approaches, conferences, ministries, fads, books, bands… There’s always movement, always something going on, always talking, always looking for “relevance”. Some people seem to always be in a state of constant acceleration, always “on the go”. And let’s not talk about the things who are considered “evangelical”, but I’m not sure if the word is fitting at all.

      Although it isn’t necessarily something that I’ve experienced much in my own congregation, I’ve seen some of the symptoms in a few people. Not sure what to think when somebody says that the best way to give glory to God is by telling others about Him… I agree that’s a good way of doing it, but I understood that when Paul says in Romans 12:1 that our true worship is to give our bodies as a living sacrifice, he meant our whole lives and not only when going out and “evangelising”, or when “worshipping” to the beat of the latest Christian band.

      There doesn’t seem to be much space for silence sometimes… It’s like we have to keep on continuously making noise, even when we’re in front of God. Stop talking and stay quiet for a while. There’s also real intimacy in a relationship when we can be silent and still love each others company.

      In that sense I am much more like Joseph, right above this. Never felt that “zeal to witness” every single person I’ve met, at least in the way some say it should be felt. Maybe that’s part of the problem: letting somebody else determine in which ways we should act, feel and see things in our Christian lives. I’m the first to support the idea that it’s possible to create, in Christ, a community of believers who does not live according to the old standards, but according to the new identity found in Him… But I still see a huge difference between that and a bunch of clones.

      • “There doesn’t seem to be much space for silence sometimes… It’s like we have to keep on continuously making noise, even when we’re in front of God. Stop talking and stay quiet for a while. There’s also real intimacy in a relationship when we can be silent and still love each others company.”

        Excellent words, Martin. I enjoyed your entire post. Keep them coming!

      • Fantastic!!!

        I wonder what would happen in the Kingdom if we all just shut up once in awhile!!

        One of my biggest issues is when someone comes out telling me, “the way I ought to feel”……I’m kind of like that kid on Sesame Street…..”which one of these kids is doing his own thing”…….God certainly didn’t make clones or robots!! It’s the people with control issues that feel the need to make us all be the same!

        Thanks for a great post Martin!

  2. Thank you for showing us Pippa’s Song and this timely reminder about the temptations that come alongside a sense of wellbeing. I don’t know whether you have read Michael Sadgrove’s book on Wisdom and Ministry but he has some good insights on this. He refers to Solomon’s fall for the temptation of “grandiosity” – the sort of “Do I look big in this?” I’ve referred to it in http://www.thejogsite.com/2011/01/nobility-and-celebrity.html

  3. The fourth is a big one for me. Life goes well sometimes and I forget to pray for the many who suffer day after day, “Your Kingdom come…”

  4. Love the beautiful Meissner illustrations – they are perfect!

  5. Question:

    Is this ‘right orientation’ — and I mean the pure and blithe extreme of it depicted by Browning — something that every Christian ought to cultivate as we should cultivate the Fruits of the Spirit?

    Or is it a special gift or calling, as celibacy or missions or being a Stylite are, that only some are called to (and them only at certain, fortuitious times), and that most of us ought not to meddle with?

    I’m asking this question for myself, but also, sort of, for Eagle. It is clear that he burned out because he felt more was expected of him than he could give. That ‘hunger for the new creation’ that Mike speaks of is a great blessing. Without it, this life is often intolerable to an honest person — unless he is a very blithe, honest person.

    • Andy, good question. On the one hand I don’t think Christians take seriously enough that God actually commands us to take pleasure and find enjoyment in the good things he gives us. Wanting to be happy and to have earthly security and prosperity are natural and good desires. Like all other desires they have been corrupted and we will get it wrong often, turning worthwhile pursuits into idolatry. Back to the cross.

      On the other hand, good seasons often arrive apart from our efforts to make them happen. I say receive the gift and enjoy to the full, being always mindful of how we can share the wealth with those less fortunate.

    • Props to Andy for the best question I’ve seen for a while. Mike’s answer is good, but I’m still going to mediate on this for a while…

    • Thansk for asking that Andy…I appreciate it!!

  6. Thank you for the timely reminders about the dangers of the ordinary life; I’m in an ordinary period and I’ve caught myself bordering on self-righteousness a couple of times this week. 🙁 That particular sin is so insidious!

  7. David Cornwell says:

    “…we might be tempted to assume that the state of orientation is normal and expected.”

    Now that I am on the north far side of 70 it is very easy to look back at life and perfectly see these seasons that happen in all of our lives. I can even pinpoint a day in the past when life took a dark turn and and triggered events in our family that eventually wore us down. This went on for years. It affected each and every day like a burden that could not be prayed away. This was one of the reasons I eventually left the ministry. Then this load did start to lift, a little at a time. Even though God seemed far away, I took long walks in the city and tried to pray as I walked.

    In time things did start to change for the better, but the scars and after-events may last forever. I went to work for a large company, met new people, had fun with them and started to feel much better. Eventually we found a new church in another denomination (after a lifetime of being a Methodist!).

    Now, in retirement, a good, sane, and enjoyable life has returned. We live close to nature (too close sometimes) watch the birds at the feeder, go to a church we love, and try to serve God as best we can. Yet, at this point in life, we are very aware that this season will also end and that our time here is rapidly nearing the end. But we have a firm hope in in the Resurrection, a new Heaven, a new earth, the wiping away of tears, and healing.

    “To everything there is a season, and a time…”

  8. When life is good, humans tend to forget God. I must remember that even though I am moral and leading a good life I am a sinner and lost without Jesus Christ. This doesn’t fit well with some people. I told a church member that I liked our church because it was full of sinners! I got a strange look, and this person now avoids me.

  9. Randy Thompson says:

    Pippa is a good theologian.

    God indeed is in His heaven, and all is right with the world. As someone prone to depression, I find it a huge comfort to believe–not necessarily to feel–that God is in heaven and all is right with the world. Do bad things happen? Sure, and on a grand scale. As I wrote, the Dow is dropping like a stone and oil prices are up almost 10%. Northern Africa and the Middle East are in a state of chaos or near chaos. Many in our country are on the brink of insolvency, and many others are going over the brink. Yet, despite the fact that my little corner of reality may be falling apart, or that a larger chunk of reality may be falling apart for whole groups of people, nonetheless, God is still in his heaven. Although the waves may be terrifyingly high and we seem to be lost in the storm, the north star hasn’t moved. Your part of the sky may be covered with storm clouds, lightning and even tornadoes, but the sun is still shining. I may be depressed, frustrated, angry and see no way out, but, praise God, it’s times like this that I most need to be reminded that all is right with the world, and God is in His heaven.

    I love what Ben Patterson says in his terrifically good book, “He Has Made Me Glad: Enjoying God’s Goodness with Reckless Abandon.” “When my circumstances aren’t agreeable,” he says, I practice a little spiritual discipline that keeps me in joy nevertheless. When someone asks me how I am I’ll answer, ‘Other than the fact that my sins are forgive and that I’m going to live in heaven eternally in the joy of God, I’m not doing too well.’ The look on the questioner’s face always amuses me, and it usually lifts the clud a bit. Sometimes I’ll just answer, ‘Fundamentally sound.'” (page 32)

    That phrase, “Fundamentally sound,” has stuck with me. I may not feel fundamentally sound on bad days. Libya, Egypt and the Dow may not look too “fundamentally sound” now, but, by golly, reality itself really is “fundamentally sound.” Even though I may be in the middle of a storm and been struck by lightning, the sun still shines, and will still do so when the storm is over.

    Someone, somewhere, start singing “It Is Well with My Soul,” and be sure to read the back story.

    • > God indeed is in His heaven, and all is right with the world. As someone prone to depression, I find it a huge comfort to believe–not necessarily to feel–that God is in heaven and all is right with the world. Do bad things happen? Sure, and on a grand scale. <

      But Randy, your statement seems dishonest. If bad things happen on a grand scale, it is not possible that all is right with the world.

      God is in His heaven, and all is right there. We pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” because we know that conformity to God’s perfect Will makes the difference between earth and heaven. Conformity to God’s Will is, in fact, what makes heaven heaven, and conformity to His Will on earth would make a great difference here, too. To say that all is right with the world (assuming that “the world’ means earth) comes close to denying any difference between heaven as it is and earth as it is.

      Perhaps Pippa is a great theologian. But so is Travis Bickel, when he says, “One of these days a real rain’s gonna come and wash all the trash off the streets.”

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Thanks for your comment. You make good points. However, I don’t think my comments were dishonest. At least, I hope they weren’t.

        And, I still side with Pippa.

        What God has created is good; what we do with it often is not. We pervert the goodness of God’s good creation. Evil is a perversion of what’s good. As such, it has no being in and of itself. Ultimately, it cannot be a rival of the good, but only a perversion of it. No matter how great the perversion might be, God and His goodness are greater than the perversion of it. No matter how wicked wickedness may be, the creation of the good God is still fundamentally sound. In short, what’s right with the world way outweighs what’s wrong with it. I am not trying to play fast and loose with evil, pain and sin; I’m trying to see it in the context of creation (which is good) and Christian hope.

        I find G.K. Chesterton helpful here. At the end of “Orthodoxy” he writes, “The primary paradox of Christianity is that the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition; that the normal itself is an abnormality. That is the inmost philosophy of the Fall . . . To the question, ‘What are you?’ I could only answer, ‘God knows.’ And to the question, ‘What is meant by the Fall?’ I could answer with complete sincerity, ‘That whatever I am, I am not myself.'”

        As Jesus so powerfully demonstrated, we live in a world where “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

        Because God created the world, because God so loved the world that he gave us His Son to save us, I believe the world is “fundamentally sound.” It will continue on until God transforms it into a new heaven and a new earth. As T.S. Eliot put it, “all things proceed to joyful consummation.”

        • Thanks for this reply. I understand that you aren’t playing fast and loose with evil, pain and sin. But you are playing fast and loose with words. You say, “In short, what’s right with the world way outweighs what’s wrong with it.” That makes you more content than Houseman when he said,

          “Therefore, since the world has still
          Much good, but much less good than ill,
          And while the sun and moon endure
          Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
          I’d face it as a wise man would,
          And train for ill and not for good.”

          I wouldn’t quibble with either of you in your judgment of the balance. My quibble is that there’s all the difference in the world between saying “what’s right outweighs what’s wrong” and saying “All’s right.” All doesn’t mean mostly and right means much more than fundamentally sound.

          This post was the first of several by Chaplain Mike about the seasons of spiritual formation. I don’t mean to diminish this season because it is what it is and not any of the the others. I’m sure it is a good, and perhaps a blessed state. Still, it is a puzzling one for me. I haven’t felt it even once in the past 10 years. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of things, from social injustice to animals killed by cars, that bother me more now than when I was younger.

          There is a lot of joy and contentment in my life and in the world, and we have the hope of a perfect eternity. But to say that ALL is well, when it patently isn’t, is a grace (if it is a grace at all) that isn’t given to me.

          • Randy Thompson says:

            Hmmm. Good point about “mostly” and “all’s right.” and “fundamentally sound” and “right.” I’ll give that some thought. Thanks.

            My affirmative of Pippa is important to me, as I spent a great deal of my adult life detoxifying from withering levels of negativity and cynicism I picked up when I was young, both from inside and outside the church. As a Christian, how or why I let that happen to me I don’t know. Life is hard enough, and if you know depression in any of its manifestations from the inside, it is even harder. Rotten, cynical thinking was one of the parts of my depression. My life now is very different from my younger one because I have, by God’s grace, learned to navigate life with a greater (and I hope ever increasing) sense of God’s love and of the sheer essential goodness of God’s creation.

            I appreciate your comment about not feeling the “blessed state,” as you call it. Mother Theresa didn’t either, evidently. Don’t think I’ve gone through life happily buzzed the past ten years either! For me, it’s more important that I believe it rather than feel it, although the feelings are a blessing, when they’re there..

            Anyway, thanks for this interaction.

          • Andy, if I’m not mistaken, the song in Browning’s poem is intended as somewhat Pollyanna-ish. I quote it here less as an analysis of the actual state of the world and more as a sentiment of how we feel when life is treating us kindly.

    • This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
      That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
      This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
      Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
      And earth and Heav’n be one.

  10. The world was fundamentally sound before the fall of man.Now we are all doomed to die.Without accepting Jesus as our savior we are all dead and so is this world.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Yes. The wages of sin is death. We need a savior. Absolutely.

      But, God’s creation is still fundamentally sound. God created the world, and then sent His son to rescue and repair it. Despite human depravity, what God created is still fundamentally good. It’s like seeing a really bad movie at a really good theater. The screen and projector are top-of-the-line, the seats are comfortable, and the popcorn is terrific. But, the movie stinks. The theater is fundamentally sound even if the movie is a bomb.

      God still makes Himself known through His creation (Romans 1:19-21). That human beings refuse to honor God or to be grateful for what God has given them (Romans 1:21), that they (then) become fools and God gives them over to their own bent desires (Romans 1:22-32), doesn’t change that His creation is still a good one. It still makes Him known, at least to those who honor God and see His work as occasions for thanks-giving.

      I think this is suggested later in Romans, when Paul writes, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:19-24a).

      In light of this, I think N.T. Wright has it (appropriately enough, for those of you who like wordplay) right. Referring to Revelation 5:12 (“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”), he says this: “That is the context in which all Christian living takes place. Christian faith–biblical faith–is not a matter of putting a brave face on things and trying our best. It is a matter of looking away from ourself and seeing the world as God sees it, as it really is. In the real world every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, is singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might, forever and ever!’ (Revelation 5:13) Creation is saying ‘Amen.’ The church bows down and worships. These are the facts.” (Taken from “Small Faith, Great God”).

      Although my eyesight is not even close to 20/20 when it comes to “seeing the world as God sees it,” what I do see when, by faith, I look through God’s eyes (if I may be so bold as to say that), encourages me, strengthens me, and, sometimes at least, makes me want to worship.