February 20, 2011
A Broken World
“What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered” (Ecclesiastes 1:15).
Because of the damage sin has done to this world, our hearts will never find what they truly need here. This world is simply not what it was created to be, and to live in it is to hurt deeply. No one has tasted the bitterness of our experience any more than God. God has lived among us, and when God’s great heart pondered the magnitude and the hurtfulness of what has gone wrong, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
It is foolish to underestimate the brokenness of this world. The more truly wise we become, the more we see the utter wretchedness of our earthly condition. “In much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). The wise person, who has come to see that this world is tragically and irretrievably broken, will tend to be a person of sorrows. The unwelcome truth is this: we cannot have anything more than partial happiness as long as we live here. Our deepest needs cannot and will not be fully met in this life. To pretend otherwise is dangerously dishonest, and we’ll be better off the minute we stop denying the seriousness of our unmet needs.
Yet it is also foolish to underestimate God. As much as we need to face this world’s brokenness, we need even more to face the ultimate reality of God. We must learn to see God’s mercy as our salvation, God’s promise as our joy. As we fix our hope on God’s perfection, however, we must still not forget the imperfection of the world. God’s Son did not die to make us healthier, wealthier, and happier in the here and now. He died to redeem us from the sin that is in our hearts and to give us eternal life. God gives us help, but God does not plan to fix this world. What God plans to fix is us – and then bring us to live where God is. As for this world, God plans to destroy it.
“In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God” (Aeschylus). Let us deal no more in superficial, sentimental solutions. Let us let God be God.
“To know of God without knowing of man's misery causes pride. To know of man's misery without knowing of God causes despair” (Blaise Pascal).