Dear Friend, When I was a little boy growing up in the hills of West Virginia, I can remember being so amazed at what I could see mirrored in a small puddle of water. The vast expanse of sky with the white, billowy clouds, the patches of rich blue, even the overhanging branches of a huge oak tree. It reflected the way I looked at the world â€“ big, beautiful, happy. Then as the years passed, I began to find my mind dwelling less on that big happy vision and more on the puddle itself! The truth is that neither view of the world is complete. They are both too simplistic. The problem is ancient and complex. Yet we can understand the problem. We must find a way to face the world as it really is. How do you view the world? Do you see it as essentially good and kind, a world in which you will be treated fairly? Or do you have a critical and negative view of the world? Do you believe the worst will happen, so why try to make things work out?
You might be thinking, “Landon, I have my hands full just living each day without trying to formulate some philosophical world view!” I understand that feeling. Yet the truth is, you already do have a view of the world, and you’re already operating from it – whether or not you’ve consciously thought it out. With a little conscious thought you could clarify many issues and questions of your life that now leave you puzzled, frustrated or miserable. Let’s suppose you tend toward the rosier view of the world – that the world is kind and you will be treated fairly. Your faith that God will finally bring things together in the end has given you that view. It’s tough now, but everything will be all right in the end. The problem with that is, it doesn’t give us much help in understanding the here and now. When you’re really hurting or suffering, it’s not much help to be told that everything will be all right in the end. Is it? You want to say, “Hey, get to the here and now, will you, please? It’s now that I’m suffering. It’s now that I don’t understand.” Another thing, if we are holding to the rosier view, then we usually blame ourselves when things go wrong. “If I had been a better Christian, if I lived a more exemplary life, then these things would not have happened to me.” This leaves us feeling guilty and with poor self – esteem.
Is this true? Is it true that if I suffer, it means I’ve done wrong? What about Job? What about the suffering and unfair treatment of Jesus? And Paul? Did they bring about the bad things that happened to them? Suppose, however, that you take the other view of the world – the cynical one. The problem with that is it’s hard to be hopeful. You find it difficult to get excited about anything. You lose the child inside you. Either of these two views leaves us in harm’s way. Both are unreal. They are illusions. They leave a person finally disillusioned, defenseless, and drained. Disillusioned. Life has a way of making us honest – especially where our illusions are concerned. If I carry an illusion about the way the world is, I am bound to be disillusioned. Life won’t make an exception for me. There are two swords with which we may fight the battles of life: One is illusion, the other is reality. If I fight in my relationships with illusion, I’ll be disillusioned; the same with parenting and work. However, if I fight with the sword of reality, I will be better equipped to face any situation, carry any burden, bear any grief, and deal creatively with any problem. Defenseless. If I fight each day with an illusion about the world, I will be caught with my guard down – expecting things to be
one way only to experience them in a different way. This view leaves me with too many blind sides – defenseless. If I understand the way the world is, I will know that dreadful disease can hit me. That understanding will give me a certain defense when, and if, tragedy strikes. If I understand the world, I will know that relationships don’t always work out. Even if I can’t guarantee that every relationship will work, I can have a view of the world that equips me to deal with whatever happens – even if that includes a damaged or broken relationship. How you view the world, then, can enable you to remain whole and courageous no matter what suffering might come to you. You are not left defenseless. Drained. It is hard enough to live with a pretty solid view of the world. Even then, we will become tired at times. To live with false views of the world, to have these views break and disappoint us over and over, to have the rug of life pulled from beneath us again and again – all of this is draining. It’s like climbing a hill. If I climb and climb and am always slipping back, that drains me. But if I know the perils of the hills, and if I know the best places to put my feet for maximum support, I will still get tired, but it won’t the fatigue that comes from a sense of futility.
In my own life I think I was unprepared in many ways for the degree to which life can be hard. I was caught off guard. Things just shouldn’t be that way, I would argue to myself. People shouldn’t be that way, I would tell myself. But they were. Was I to spend all my energy wishing things were other than they were, or would I use my energy dealing with the realities that were? That was the question I had to answer. It’s the question you’ve got to answer. The fighter’s view of the world, then, is this: We don’t pretend the world is better than it really is, nor do we believe that all is hopeless. We have no illusions about the nature of the world, so little ever catches us off guard. With no illusions, and with our hearts anchored in God, we bravely face the world as it is and respond with courage and joy. Our response is always to go forward. Do you have this kind of heart?
Your friend, Landon Saunders
Key Biblical Concepts 1. The heart must be cleared of illusions if one is to see the world and God in the right way (see Matthew 5:3) 2. Both the good and the bad are hurt in the world (compare Job, Paul) 3. Both good and bad are blessed in the world (Matthew 5:45) 4. The true disciple is to respond to all circumstances with courage and fortitude. 5. The following biblical passages are background for seeing the real world. a. Ecclesiastes chapter 1 and 2. The writer of Ecclesiastes is not pessimistic, but he does acknowledge the dangers and ambiguities everyone must face. Read the entire twelve chapters for a good overview.
b. Isaiah 53; Psalm 52; Mark 14-15; Consider: If Jesus is the Son of God, why did He suffer? (Matthew 16:2123) c. Other Passages: Romans 5:1-21; James 1:1-8