How many times in our lives to we come to face difficult realities and think, “Where is God in this? Why doesn’t he do something about it?” It is a pervading question for both the faithful believer and the faithless antagonist. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that all the pain and injustice in the world seems to indicate a God that is more like an absentee landlord than an actively involved Father.
We have passages of Scripture that we hold onto, like “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened,” “For I say to you, if anyone has faith the size of a mustard seed and does not doubt in his heart, he could uproot this very mountain and cast it into the sea.” Yet when we try to activate our faith, many times our sick loved one do not get healed, the job we prayed for does not happen, and at times, our bills do not get paid. It is a simplistic answer to say “we didn’t have enough faith.” But I believe there is something more going on here. One is we have defined faith and repentance wrongly and thus are not living in accord to the faith and repentance found in the bible. Two, and this I want to delve into more in this post, is everything we do, think, and act is based on our driving motives. It is easy to be a skeptic about the goodness of God in this world when we see so much wrong and pain. I believe the root issue is whether we are seeing things from a temporary (this worldly) perspective, or an eternal (heavenly) perspective.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon discusses much with the problems of the world. “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity,” he says over and over. The best word for what Solomon wrote is “absurd.” Everything is absurd, a paradox, a conflict between what is supposed to be just rewards for good and bad actions. Yet that is what we do not see. One would expect the wicked to pay for their evil, yet often we see them prosper. One would expect the righteous to walk in health and wealth, yet often we see them poor and diseased. We would expect justice for the afflicted and suffering, yet often we see the opposite. How are we to make sense of this? Ecclesiastes kind of ends on a low note.
We have to face two problems in order to make sense of the absurdity we see. First, we cannot cherry-pick the passages we like. There are 66 books in our Bibles, much of which contain very uncomfortable passage. For every, “ask and it will be given” type of passage, we have “You have not because you ask with wrong motives.” For every “Faith can move mountains,” we have “The world hated me, it will hate you.”
The problem we face is where our spirits are rooted. Are they rooted in this world (the temporary), or in heaven (eternity). If our spirits are rooted in this world, we cannot have any other conclusion than that of Kind Solomon at the end of his reign. Life is full of difficulties. The righteous do not always come out on top. Many times the good people are the ones who are oppressed, violated, and cut down, while the wicked enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. We live in a fallen world and much of what we see is a perversion of justice. In the end, we are victims of our circumstances. In this mindset, we will struggle with passages like, “For all things work together for the good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Because we will often not see things working together for what would seem to be our good.
Yet having our spirits rooted in eternity changes our perspective. It recalibrates our value system. We know things work together for the good of the righteous, because the end goal is eternal. Paul says, “This temporary light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory.” If our end goal is in eternity, then getting passed by on a promotion, being restricted socially because of our faith, or being persecuted by unbelievers are all temporary light afflictions. Were we to focus on justice in the here and now, we would seriously have to question the goodness of our God. When we focus on eternity, we can see a greater picture incorporated the hosts of heaven, the joys and afflictions of earth, and the torments of hell. There is more going on far beyond our personal experienced, whether it be painful or joyful.
King Solomon was the wisest man there ever was, yet he lacked a concept of life in eternity. Thus the only conclusions he could make were those found in Ecclesiastes. He could only end with the idea that suffering will happen to the good and the righteous may die prematurely, but it is still a better way to honor the Lord God. For Solomon, the reality of life really was absurd. He lacked a significant portion of the equation–eternity.
We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in eternity. When we align ourselves with His point of reference, our biggest dreams and goals are nothing by comparison. When we live for and pursue eternity, the goals held by a dying world hold less sway. Whether it be marriage, children, money, property, fame, prestige, glory, all of these can only be enjoyed for a brief period. It is true that some believers may enjoy some or all of these, but not all will. In eternity, none of this will matter. The values of eternity are often quite the opposite: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” “There will be no more tears.” “The woman who gave two copper coins gave more than all the rich contributions of the wealthy in the temple.”
In the end, Ecclesiastes is an incomplete book full of absurd realities, because it is limited to a temporary world. In view of eternity, the poor may still be mistreated, the wicked may still prosper, but those born again in eternity will come out on top. The man with enough faith to move a mountain probably won’t move the mountain because he is mature enough to focus that energy on more eternal things.
We struggle with pain and suffering in the world, because we struggle with thinking in terms of this life and not the next. Let us catch the vision of eternity and we will find a strength, an energy, an a motive that far surpasses that of the richest and most powerful men of the world. And from that eternal perspective, we can be agents of change in this world. We are called to a holy, loving lifestyle that touches hearts with eternity, not with things that perish on this earth. When we suffer at the hands of corruption, we can rest assured that we will stand in the presence of God in all his glory. The corruption will eventually be laid waste, and what was built in eternity will be the only things to stand.