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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Time and Eternity: Hope and Trust in Dark Times

Sep 14, 2020

In times like this we can lose hope, so we need to keep our eyes on eternity:

When individuals or nations are going through tough times, it seems like things will never improve. It can seem to just keep going on and on, with no end in sight. And the worst part of this is when it seems all hope is gone, when it seems like there is no way out. Those prone to depression and suicidal thoughts know all about this.

It is this sense of being boxed in and completely without hope that will push so many folks over the edge. And of course with repressive and irrational lockdown policies in place, we see a real spike in mental health problems and suicides. Sadly, too many folks believe there will be no relief.

Even I can succumb to bouts of depression during this crisis. Living in Victoria does not help – there is no other jurisdiction in the free world that has such draconian, destructive and seemingly never-ending lockdown measures. The suffering is enormous and there seems to be no help in sight.

Hundreds of horror stories could be told here. Let me mention just one from a friend in South Australia who lives near the Victorian border. Like so many people, the corona hysteria has resulted in most elective surgeries being indefinitely postponed.

This gal has had a medical issue she has been battling with since July of last year. But with the moronic lockdown policies, border closures, and so on, she has been stuck. Tomorrow she is hoping she can finally get her much needed surgical procedure performed. She only had to wait 14 months! There are so many others in the same boat.

Even worse examples of a sense of utter despair and loss of hope of course can be discussed. Imagine if you were a prisoner of war during WWII, languishing in a German or Japanese concentration camp. With no word from the outside as to how the war was progressing, most had no idea if and when they might be delivered.

Would they remain there until death, or were the Allies on the verge of breaking through and liberating them? All they could do was hope and pray. Of course some did lose all hope. What a hellish place to be in. It seemed like demonic evil has triumphed, and there was no relief in sight.

One thinks here of the best-selling 1946 book by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. A major theme of the book has to do with how they thought about their captivity, what hope they had, and how considerations about the future affected their ability to survive. The prisoners’ psychological and mental views strongly affected their longevity.

Biblical and spiritual reflections

I have written often on biblical, theological and spiritual matters during this year. While one can discuss political, social, medical and scientific aspects of the crisis we are in, we need the other perspectives as well to properly make sense of things.

I have mentioned people I am aware of who are struggling so greatly because of the lockdowns, and their sense of utter hopelessness. And I feel their pain. Being a melancholic sort of guy who has also struggled with depression at times, I must say some of the hardest days in my life have been during the past few months.

I despair not just for myself but for others. And it is not just the inconvenience of lockdowns, but the bigger picture items that so heavily weigh me down. As I have said so often now, two things especially bother me: the ease and speed in which governments can strip its people of their basic freedoms and rights, and the willingness of the masses to go right along with this, ask no questions, and fully defend their captors. It is Stockholm Syndrome on steroids.

This bothers me – and others – immensely. If we can trade away all our freedoms and basic human rights in the vain hope that some all-powerful State can protect us from a virus, then we have already lost. We might as well kiss freedom goodbye permanently. We have already surrendered.

These are the sorts of things that I think about constantly. But when I go to Scripture, I see much to help me endure and have hope. As I have written before, the Bible throughout affirms God’s sovereignty, his rule over the actions, and how evil is always only temporary.

Sure, when you are in the very midst of great evil and suffering, it seems like it is going to last forever. My friend had to wait over a year for her relief to finally arrive. Who knows if Victorians will ever get out of this diabolical lockdown. So we must wait, trust, and not lose hope.

But as I say, when you are in the centre of tough times, it goes on and on. This is where we need perspective – biblical perspective. Even the biblical writers needed this. How often do we read the great saints of God in the Old Testament making these sorts of complaints? “How Long O Lord?” “Why do the wicked prosper?” “When will we see justice?”

I have asked and prayed these very things quite often of late. I wonder how long some of these things will go on. I implore God to act – and to act now. But he knows what he is doing, and his timetable is perfect. But still, when so much evil and injustice seems to be allowed to run riot, one can only cry out to God for some vindication and some justice.

But our timetables are not his. We would all likely do things much differently – and much more quickly, when it comes to stopping evil. A few things must be kept in mind, however. Because we are all sinners and we are all evil, we remember that thankfully God has been merciful to us, and has not judged us so promptly as we have deserved.

Also, whatever suffering and hardship we go through because of evil rulers and the like always has to be measured in the light of eternity. I have often brought up the case of those forced to live under godless communism in Russia. For a full 72 years (from 1917 to 1989) this horrific tyranny went unchecked.

Millions of people both within and without this communist hellhole would have prayed for God’s deliverance. Sure, it eventually came, and the wall came down, but it was an awfully long time. Some people were born, lived and died in that 72-year period. All they ever knew was suffering and misery; they never did witness their release, their liberation.

Just as wicked and godless nations can seem to go on for far too long, so too can wicked and godless individuals. Last night I caught a few minutes of a television program that looks at how famous people died – at what was their actual cause of death.

This one featured Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame. The one thing that stood out for me was the fact that he died at the ripe old age of 91. Two things especially went through my mind. One, I and so many other Christians had prayed for him when he was alive, that God would either improve him or remove him.

Yet he lived for nearly a century! It is as if our prayers were not answered. I am not aware of any death-bed conversion on his part. He seems to have lived his life of sin, sleaze and debauchery right up to the very end. How many millions of people were negatively impacted by this one man, and how many have ended up in a lost eternity because of this ungodly guy?

Two, one could be tempted to think he had it made. From 1953 when he founded his porn mag, till his death in 2017, he was surrounded by all the beautiful women he wanted. What a life, some might think. Of course it is all a delusion. He may have had his fun, but compared to eternity, those 64 years were nothing.

Christians will always wonder why the wicked seem to live such long and seemingly problem-free lives. And they will also wonder why so many great saints have died so young. One thinks of Christian musician Keith Green who died at the age of 28. I discuss others who died quite young here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/05/16/12-great-christians-died-quite-young/

It is easy to get discouraged and depressed and to start to lose hope. If we look at this world only through human eyes, it seems like evil so often triumphs, so often succeeds, and so often goes on and on. But righteousness and godliness seem to fare much less well in comparison.

But here we need the eyes of faith. We need to see the big picture. We need to learn the lessons of Scripture. All evil WILL one day be judged. All good WILL one day be acknowledged. We must stay the course, no matter how dark the times and no matter how much it seems like evil has now got the upper hand.

God is fully aware of what is happening on planet earth. He sees what the wicked and ungodly are doing, and he is not indifferent to that. He also sees what his own people are enduring and going through, and he is not indifferent to their plight either.

So hang in there. It is tough right now, and things may get a whole lot tougher. But we must keep our focus on eternity. What is happening now is only very temporary. As A. W. Tozer once put it, “We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come.”

[1626 words]

14 Responses to Time and Eternity: Hope and Trust in Dark Times

  • Hi, Bill excellent and honest and vulnerable article as usual…

    Thought I would inform your readers;

    What is Stockholm syndrome?
    Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response. It occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers. This psychological connection develops over the course of the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.

    With this syndrome, hostages or abuse victims may come to sympathize with their captives. This is the opposite of the fear, terror, and disdain that might be expected from the victims in these situations.

    Over the course of time, some victims do come to develop positive feelings toward their captors. They may even begin to feel as if they share common goals and causes. The victim may begin to develop negative feelings toward the police or authorities. They may resent anyone who may be trying to help them escape from the dangerous situation they’re in.

    This paradox does not happen with every hostage or victim, and it’s unclear why it occurs when it does.

    Many psychologists and medical professionals consider Stockholm syndrome a coping mechanism, or a way to help victims handle the trauma of a terrifying situation. Indeed, the history of the syndrome may help explain why that is.

    Love and blessings to all. especially in Victoria…

    Cheers & Blessings

    Eric Hansen

  • Thanks Bill. Needed this reminder today. We have family in Victoria from 4 to 74 that we’re missing very much. Hard to be positive in this crazy world where fear is forced on us daily from every direction. May be flat on my back but still looking up. Bless you.

  • Thank you so much for that letter, it was so thought provoking and really got me thinking which all your letters do. I really appreciate what you are doing and I can see why so many others follow your Blog. You are right we do need to see things from other people’s perspective, we need that balance in our lives. As for depression my mother always use to say to me (because she was sick a lot and suffered a lot of depression) “there is always others worse off than yourself”. That is so true, and just the other day I was reading just what our fellow brothers and sisters in other countries, especially China are enduring through persecution, it’s horrific, really horrific. Honestly I think they would trade places in are minute for just a lock down in are free society like ours. I really believe this should be are wake up call for all of us, because as some of your readers have already stated, that could be us next, and how many of us can’t even handle are lock down let alone some of the persecution others are having to endure all over the world. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the devil and start putting our heads together to find are way out of this. We need to get our country back, or at least try. We need to hold on to what we have left until our Lord’s returns, because believe me, he is coming back to reign on this earth, and that is something to look forward to. Isn’t it? Also just one last thing. The Lord will not give us more than we can bare, and remember he died bodily at are young age also, but he rose again. When are Christian dies the word refers to that as sleeping in Christ. Kind of like when the surgeons put you to sleep when you are having an operation. When you wake up you, it is almost like an instant, you have no memory of what happened or how long you slept, but you are awake again and the better for it. As for those who are evil and die late in life, most of the time I believe they have are pact with the devil which I believe the Lord also allows. Jesus needed are Judas and I am more than certain these evil people are in God’s plan too, if only to test the Lord’s chosen. When I witness to people I sometimes ask them to look up into the sky and then ask them would they rather be part of that darkness or one of those stars. There has to be darkness in order for the stars to shine bright. Thanks again Bill, I just love your articles, and I am sorry for this long letter, just had to get it out.

  • Yes, thanks Bill, it is best to live with an eternal perspective with all the doom and gloom around. Even the Great Tribulation with the Antichrist ruling only goes 3.5 years before Jesus returns and preceding that the two witnesses, Rev 11, prophesy and contend with their enemies for 3.5 years. Just how it all unfolds is hard to work out.

  • Thanks again Bill, as part of my studies, I came across the Stockdale paradox. Which seems the antithesis of Stockholm syndrome, “always be brutally honest with your appraisal of your situation but maintain hope in your ability to survive it.” Can’t remember it exactly but hope that is close. Stockdale survived POW camp as did many of his men.
    Keep up the good work and our prayers are with the people of Vic. I don’t believe mr andrews will survive politically to Christmas.

  • Thanks for that Wayne.

  • There is a quote from the midrash I believe the the good die young that they might not degenerate the wicked die old that they might repent or produce righteous offspring.

    As a person with social phobia and having had slight depression most of my life the last months have been normal. it might seem odd but the socially awkward are probably the best suited to get through this lockdown. The ones society overlooked are the most stable now.

    Still I long for heaven and the New Jerusalem. I have lost, through inability to have, so much from my disabilities I really long for my years being restored. Kids, A house, a job as an elementary school teacher, a job as a youth pastor, a life.

    I pray for God’s judgement everyday to bring the justice so many, especially the aborted, deserve and the wake up the church needs.

  • Actually Paul you are right in regards to that quote, and there is actually are scripture in the Old Testament that says something along the same lines. That the Lord will take some of the righteous earlier in life because he does not want them to be snared by the enemy. Can’t remember which scripture though, maybe another one of the readers can. Also like yourself I also am limited in what I can do due to my disabilities. However we can put pen to paper right? The Apostles did it all the time. Also the thing about being disabled is it prevents you from being distracted from doing other things that possibly could take you away from Our Lord and makes us spend more time with him to do the things that we are called to do. It took me are while to work that one out. God bless you Paul

  • Stockdale seems to have been a realist. which is what I try to be and christians everywhere should be. Pessimists and optimists aren’t brutally honest and for a christian that is not good. You will either be one of those upbeat everything is fine christians or a gloom and doom christian who sees every bump in the night at the second coming has started.

    It is even worse in todays society of extremes because people only see TWO possibilities (and those polar opposites) existing and if you aren’t on their side you are on the extreme opposite side. Gloom and doomers give christianity a bad name in that we are seen as the crazy man with the sign ‘the end is nigh’ on it. Upbeat ones give us a bad name because they make it appear we are living in a fantasy world unable to, as it was said in Mary Poppins, see beyond the end of our noses.

    Obviously there are many realist christians out there but given 2 and 1/3 Billion CLAIM to be christian we are out numbered. (which isn’t a popular thing to say everyone wants to believe the problematic one only make up a SMALL part of the church at large [even in america we have far to many optimists preaching a revival about to bust out with out any national repentance. a remnant won’t to it you need NATIONAL repentance and the majority of the church is awake and thus sees NO NEED for such a thing. I don’t know how the church situation in Australia is as to whether the whole of the Australian church is in apostasy or backsliden OR if it is mostly faithful but if the former I imagine something DRASTIC would be needed there like here. at this point in America nothing short of divine judgment will wake up the church. He has been sending little judgments like feminism and the sexual revolution and the gay revolution and even 9/11 but nothing worked. something on a national scale MIGHT work something so drastic we have to rely on him. an EMP with some nuclear strike might just do it.])

    It is the realists who discern the signs. The Pharisees had lots of knowledge OF the bible but Jesus scolded them for not knowing the time of their visitation. too often I read stories about the “bible belt” and feel they know what the bible SAYS but not what it MEANS. Without understanding, through teaching or a good commentary, knowing the words of the bible is useless. even satan knows the words of the bible! Too many churches have neglected that part of things and that leads to a nation of sheeple. a nation like that is ripe for judgment. Life is too short not to come to saving grace and share eternal life with the Lord. Since life is a blip eternally you better get you beliefs right you don’t get a second chance.

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