You probably get discouraged about events in the news too. Terrorism. Family violence. Unemployment. Some of the scary news may even be closer to home than the newspaper. Health problems. Damaged personal relationships. Friction among people in your church. It can be discouraging.
And just whose responsibility is it to make things better? If your first thought is God, I would not propose to correct you. I would only remind you that God acts in this world through human agents.
There is an old Hasidic story about a rabbi and his students. As they walked along one day, the rabbi asked, "How can we know the hour of dawn - the time at which the night ends and the day begins?"
No one ventured an immediate answer, so they continued to walk. Then one of the rabbi's disciples offered something. "Is it when you can look from some distance and distinguish between a wolf and a sheep?"
"No," said the rabbi. And they continued to walk.
"Is it when there is light enough to distinguish between a grapevine and a thorn bush?" ventured another student.
"No," said the rabbi. There was a long silence.
"Please tell us the answer to your question," said one. "How is it possible to know the precise time at which the dawn has broken?"
"The dawn comes for each of us," said the wise old teacher, "when we can look into the face of another human being and - by virtue of the light that comes from within us - recognize that even a stranger is our brother or sister. Until then, it is night. Until then, the night is still with us."
Self-centered lives are cramped, provincial, and ultimately forlorn. It is only those souls large enough to live for others that are expansive with joy and bright with love. Love is, in fact, the only spiritual power great enough to overcome the selfishness that seems to be instinctive to being alive.
A central part of the Christian message is that Jesus came among us to teach us how to value, affirm, and love one another. He taught us to love God by loving one another. He wanted us to learn that giving is better than getting.
There is too much darkness. Let's pray together for the dawn to come.
Rubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville since 1978. During that time, he has also taught at David Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. He is married to the former Myra Shappley, and they are the parents of three children: Mrs. David (Michelle) Arms, Tim, and Tom. To contact Rubel or to subscribe to his newsletter, Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org