“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart . . .” (Ephesians 4:17,18).
FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES, MOST PEOPLE LIVE AS IF THERE WERE NO GOD. One doesn’t have to be a newspaper reporter to have noticed that there is a vast amount of desperation in the world. In one form or another, fear and hopelessness have grown so common that we’ve almost gotten used to them. Whatever we might say we believe, our lives in the real world, outwardly at least, often look like those of people who have little hope.
If there were no such thing as God, of course, all of this would make sense. If there was nothing beyond the confines of this world worth reaching forward to, desperation would be an understandable (if still unfortunate) response to the condition the world is in.
But many of us believe there is a God. We believe there are things worth reaching for in eternity, if we choose to do so, and even in this life, we believe there are principles and values that can make a difference for good in our thinking. How is it that we, of all people, live like individuals whose backs are to the wall? If people can’t tell any difference between us and our non-Christian neighbors in the way we handle the discouragements of life, what kind of commentary is that on our convictions? And what kind of reflection does that cast upon the One whom we confess as Lord?
If, through the gospel of Christ, we’ve been forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God, then we’re no longer among those who have “no hope and [are] without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Whatever may be our sorrow, we should not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). As Christians, we may still be many things, but desperate should not be one of them.
We don’t do what is right just for the sake of appearance, of course. But even so, if those who know us would say that we seem to be just as desperate as anyone else in the world, that ought to give us pause to think. If people can’t see any difference, then is there any difference? If we don’t seem to be reaching forward, then are we reaching forward? Are we really?
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (Henry David Thoreau).