Bethany Christian Fellowship in Smith, Alberta
I like history. That may have lost some readers to boredom within three words. For some, history is a dreadful and irrelevant bore. However, I think it gives both a fascinating insight into individual people and to a greater societal function.
Maybe this is a thought that is more common in pastors than in others, but I will occasionally wonder ‘what is wrong with the world?’ I looked at a few newspapers (previous editions of this one in print and some others online), and I noticed that at least a few other people have noticed the problem, and have offered their solutions.
I can’t help but feel like the world’s troubles should be solved by now. Turns out, history has asked the question, ‘what is wrong with the world’ a few times too. While I believe that historically, and even now, most are attempting to answer this question with effort and in good faith, I want to highlight two historical (old) answers that I find wise and compelling.
Let’s start with Blaise Pascal, he was French thinker. He was considered brilliant by his friends, with some lamenting that his intelligence was ruined by his Christian faith, which in the late 1600’s, was not fashionable. When he considered what was wrong in the world, he offered this “All of humanitiy’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
There is part of me that feels like it’s good news that it’s not just ‘kids these days,’ apparently we have been looking for distraction for a long time.
Two thoughts from Pascal.
First, we currently have a society that is full of loneliness. The statistics, the stories, the numbers are very sad in themselves if you are in for some hard reading. Loneliness and being alone are not the same. I would suggest that the ability to be alone with our thoughts to reflect and order our lives will actually help us to reduce our loneliness by deepening our relationships and reducing our dependence on them to satisfy us.
Second, reflection will give us a better insight into our lives, it should help to shine a light on our weaknesses and shortcomings, but also highlight and increase our strengths and help make the decisions of how we can and should engage our world.
The second thinker is only 100 years old, a British guy named Chesterton.
A newspaper held an essay contest with the question “What is wrong with the world?” (how convenient!), and Chesterton sent in a wise, but very short essay.
I can quote it in full. He wrote “Dear sirs; I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.”
I don’t think I have ever gotten a point across that was shorter than my personal introduction. I think Chesterton has a similar thought to Pascal. The troubles of the world are 1) not single giant things that need a few giant solutions, 2) not caused only by “those bad people”, and 3) work like little seeds that find my heart to be a good place to grow.
I think it is really worth highlighting that Chesterton chose to say “I am” when he could have easily said “you are” for a similar point.
I have found history comforting lately, because it can feel so easy to ask “what is wrong with the world” and struggle with finding the answer to the question, much less any solutions.
For every problem and solution, there is a downside, a naysayer, an opposition.
History encourages me because there are millennia of good faith, well-intentioned, hard-working and wise Christians who found a way to live and work, and even ways to make the world better. Even when they walked through uncertain, difficult, oppositional, and dark times (Psalm 23 calls them valleys of death), they, and we, do not need to fear, because our God is with us, and will set a table for us.
This item reprinted with permission from Lakeside Leader, Slave Lake, Alberta