A JOY FILLED LIFE IN THE MIDST OF ADVERSITY
In the book of Revelation chapters 2 & 3, the Lord speaks to the seven churches that have contemporaneous spirits that have endured through the ages. With each church the Lord has something very positive to say as well as something negative, save one, the Church of Philadelphia—the church of brotherly love. The seven churches addressed are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each church satisfies the Lord for what it has done, and in the same manner there is something that displeases the Lord. For instance to Ephesus (Rev. 2: 2-5) the angel says to the scribe the apostle John, “I know all about you: how hard you work and how much you have put up with. I know you cannot stand wicked men, and how you tested the imposters, who called themselves apostles and proved they were liars. I know, too, that you have patience, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love now than you used to.” In other words, you have left your first love.
The angel is saying they have forgotten what is most important—love. They have been fighting to stay faithful, yet they have not been able to say as Saint Paul said at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, and run the good race.” In the age of the American prosperity gospel, where the Lord is a type of cosmic bellhop, the world is changing at an unprecedented pace. People speak of a quickening of time where events of the day deluge our senses like never before. To make sense of it all requires a sequestering of data to properly order how we are to process it for a life of priorities. We must decide what matters most in an age of a constant bombardment all day long of useless trite and banal information.
As believers gather in groups large or small, there is lament that is heard in the din of the evening. It is, “I am weary.” The distractions of the day sap the energy from the sinew of our bodies. From the time we wake in the morning, to the moment our eyes close after a long day, there is a constant barrage of information invading our senses draining away the life of joy. With the direction of the world and all that it is throwing at us, the issue is, how are we to thrive in such an atmosphere of negativity. The social indices of health, employment, finances, home, care of children and parents, the direction of our faith, commuting, and all that entails a day, is drowning the believer into state of near despair. One must remember that all Hitler did was legal through legislation passed well in advance of implementation. Let those who have ears hear. Laws passed in 1930’s Germany soon became social policy. How then are we to respond and live a meaningful joy filled life in the times in which we live?
First we must understand that we are not going to be able in this life to fully comprehend what the Lord is doing. He has a plan, it is just we can’t see it all in its totality. There is always an element of suffering in this life at some point whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Suffering, if used properly, will bring us closer to the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts often for the better of our welfare. If we are high and mighty for too long it often brings pride. If the emotions are too low for an extended period of time, it can often bring depression or worse. The dark night of the soul is often a step to bring us to the realization that we can do nothing without Him. As Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.” So the Lord calibrates our needs accordingly; we most often don’t visualize at the moment that we are enduring the trial for our own spiritual good.
At the moment things look bleak to the believer as they read and watch the news. Satan seems to have the upper hand as many believers are being smashed to the rocks like a dinghy in a bad storm. Many families are enduring a trial of some sort. Some trials are small, others not so small. In essence, as we see the onslaught of filth and the mass of corruption around us, there is a 2,500 year old letter where Yahweh prescribes to the prophet Jeremiah an antidote for what ailed Israel His people, and how to live in the midst of the trial.
The New World Order that has arrived in all its sordid policies, you will either be IN or OUT. You will either adhere to the philosophy of those in ungodly rule or you will not. A formed conscience will not allow you to participate in the political and social agenda being thrust upon you. As time moves on, it will be difficult to straddle the fence without making a commitment to decide which side of the fence you stand on. The turtle on a fencepost of observing will be taking the side of evil. The middle will be where the lukewarm gather without any conviction one way or the other, and the Lord has some harsh words for those who do so. “You who are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).
The Jewish people throughout history knew what exile meant with all its repercussions. In chapters 28 & 29 of Jeremiah, the prophet writes to those who have been exiled from Jerusalem and had to live under the tyrannical king Nebuchadnezzar. We can see time and again over a thousand years that Yahweh reigns in His Chosen people often through a bad king. Weather and moral deterioration causing social problems from within has also bent the will of His people to come back to Him and His ways. Today, it can be argued we have a combination of all three adversely affecting us. Whether or not it can be articulated as such, this is the cause of the anxiety around us. Nerves are tender and frayed and it will continue. The blessing and protective hedge has been removed from America due to its sin as America is under judgment. To give a blanket no to this thinking would make one scripturally illiterate. Now, the question is, how do believers conduct themselves and live a joy filled and peaceful life as we are asked to do amidst the moral degeneration.
Due to disobedience, through the permissive Will of Yahweh, there was a prescribed 70 years of exile as Jeremiah wrote. The false prophet Hananiah predicted the exile would be only two years and he died shortly after for “preaching apostasy” (Jer. 28:16). So from the beginning, it was Yahweh who had ordained that Israel live in exile. “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promises to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you.” It was Yahweh who allowed exile for the good of His people long term, yet it could not be seen at that time. The present is often the most difficult to discern. Hindsight is a wonderful teacher. Jeremiah 29:4 provides instructions for His Chosen people and how they should live in exile. Yahweh says,
“build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce, take wives and have sons and daughters, choose wives for your sons, find husbands for your daughters so that these can bear sons and daughters in their turn, you must increase and not decrease. Work for the good of the country to which I have exiled you; pray to Yahweh on its behalf, since on its welfare yours depends. For Yahweh says this, only when the seventy years to Babylon are over, will I visit you and fulfill my promise in your favor by bringing you back to this place. I know the plans I have in mind for you — it is Yahweh who speaks — plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then when you call to me, to come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart….I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations, and all the places where I have dispersed you…” In the vernacular: go about the business of life and do what you need to do not only to survive, but prosper.
It was during this period of exile that the birth of a nation with its cultural and ancestral norms took root. It was during the Babylonian captivity that Israel moved away from the single temple concept in Jerusalem to a local community based synagogue society. A local expression of faith lived in community. What they learned in exile sustained them for several thousand more years — prospering and thriving in the midst of trials as a wandering people.
So… we have a mandate of our own. Pray through Jeremiah 28 & 29 carefully and see how the Lord speaks to your heart. God has a plan and we must see that He is in control. The Blessed Mother gave birth to her Son in a cold dung heap only warmed by the heat of barn animals. The Holy Family picked up in the middle of the night living in exile in Egypt for a period of years to avoid adverse circumstances and chose the safe route for the protection of their Son Jesus.
Heaven knows the trials we are enduring, and it is not abnormal in church history. We have reached the point in our history as a nation when we will see the separation of the sheep and the goats, and the wheat from the chaff. It is now unavoidable. We have crossed the Rubicon and sticking to the fundamentals of our faith will sustain us peacefully and joyfully. Reject the noise around you, and go about your business.
Prayer will be the key to our spiritual health. The Lord is in control.