In a world where all of us have anxiety about the happenings around us, it is not a stretch to assume we are saying "something is wrong!" Whether you are concerned about presidential politics, the widespread epidemic of cancer, the opioid crisis or racial tensions, it seems that something is out-of-whack. I remember one of Gary Larson's Far Side comics where the doughnut shop owner is in a quandary. He is telling his assistant (the 500 lb guy sweeping the floor) "Well shoot! I just can't figure it out? I'm moving over 500 doughnuts a day and I'm just squeaking by!" Someone is eating our joy, our patience, our peace and our doughnuts! What to do?
Thomas Merton said, "And to try to be happy by being admired by men, or loved by women, or warm with liquor, full of lust, or getting possessions and treasures, that turns you away, soon, from the love of God; then men, women, and drink and lust and greed take precedence over God; and they darken His light. . . . And then we are unhappy and afraid and angry and fierce, and impatient, and cannot pray, and cannot sit still. That is the bitter yoke of sin; and for this we leave the mild and easy yoke of Christ." Merton is saying that our first problem is our propensity to sin. Paul said, in Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The first someone eating up our joy in life is us! Our choices, our schemes, our fallenness, our motives, our following of our feelings, and our addictions are all the first problem we face when we walk out of the door each morning. One of Philip Yancey's friends put it this way ... "Will God forgive me for what I am about to do?" His friend was walking straight into the joyless and insatiable grip of sin. THAT, is our first problem. Jesus' advice is simple ... "Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)."
But there is another consumer of our joy ... a very active, present and persistent evil that leads others to take actions that might hurt me. John Wesley said there was evil with intent to harm both in the person of Satan and in our corporate schemes that cause grief and pain. Job says Satan "goes to and fro upon the earth walking up and down (Job 2:2)." Job implies and active and prowling evil presence. But corporate evil is real and pervasive. Whether it is a North Korean government that runs headlong to build its military while people starve, whether it is financial institutions that make loans that require "no income and no job" (part of the real estate crisis of 15 years ago), whether it is a church leader who tells an associate pastor "you need a better car to project the image of affluence," or whether it is a corporation that sends asbestos roofing to 3rd world countries because "they" do not have consumer protection laws, corporate evil is alive and well.
In the face of these two evils and in the face of the infirmity (storm, disease, accidents) we face in a fallen world, Romans presents the unlikely life of Abraham. Abraham has faith that God will keep His promise and he becomes a great nation, though the journey from Ur to Canaan is long, dangerous and filled with pitfalls (including his own bad choices). In the song from 12 Strong (It Goes On by Zac Brown) Brown writes "I don't make promises I don't keep." Unfortunately people DO make those promises. But God does not. Abraham doesn't ever see the end of his blessing (Jesus, who becomes a blessing to the whole world) but he has faith and a sure hope that God will bring things around to their rightful place. Yes we will have burdens ... but Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29)." Let's claim that promise in the midst of a world that would eat up our joy, peace and patience! Randy