Hope for a World Going Up in Smoke

My children are convinced that the world is going up in smoke. We try to regularly watch the national network news in the evenings, and they’ve been talking a lot lately about historic wildfires in California… and Oregon, and Greece, and Siberia… It’s also concerning that the United Nations also recently released a report on Climate Change, suggesting that the pace of Global Warming is accelerating. These are unsettling times to live on Planet Earth.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also recently experienced the massive disruption of a Global Pandemic! COVID-19 has brought out dramatically different views on viruses and vaccines, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. Washington D.C. seems to be completely gripped by political gridlock. We’re reckoning with Racism and systemic injustice… and protest against that injustice… and counter-protest against that protest…

How could we possibly find a way to maintain faith, and hope, and love in the face of all these challenges?!?

I’ve been reassured to think back to the days when I was the age of my children (high school and college). In the 1990s, California’s forests weren’t on fire as much as they are now. But the state was dealing with a seemingly-apocalyptic series of earthquakes and mudslides. I wrote a school paper at the time titled something along the lines of, “Why would anyone ever want to live in California?” It just seemed like we were in the End Times. Those were also the days of the Cold War and the ever-present threat of Nuclear Holocaust. Where we literally did drills in school, crawling under our desks and putting our arms around our heads in preparation for how we would have to respond if we ever got word of the Soviet Union attacking us with their nuclear missiles.

Still, against all odds, we found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

Before my time, my parents talked about the chaos of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That, of course, was their time of adolescence and young adulthood. I don’t know what was happening in California during that time period, but those were the years when the Cuyahoga River was burning from so much pollution! They also had to live through the Vietnam War. Political figures were getting assassinated left and right. From everything that I’ve read and heard, the United States of America was even more divided during those years than it is today (if that even seems possible)!

Still, they found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

I had a grandfather named Ezra H Liechty. And he used to tell me stories about living through the Dust Bowl droughts, plagues of grasshoppers, and crop failures of the 1930s, as a farming family in North Dakota. He told me about the dust drifting up all the way over the fences, so that the cattle could walk right out of their pastures. You want to talk about environmental and economic disruption? Poverty? Shut-downs? The Great Depression was cataclysmic!

Still, they found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

And of course, Ezra H Liechty could look back through previous generations, too, all the way to his namesake: Ezra son of Seraiah. This biblical Ezra lived through the experience of his whole country being defeated in war and exiled in Babylon. Many believers now associate the name Ezra (and Nehemiah) with restoration and rebuilding. But if you read those books of the Bible, you can see that it wasn’t easy for them. When they first rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem, there was a crazy emotional reaction as the realities of the situation began to set in, as people learned what post-exile life was going to be like.

But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.

Ezra 3:12-13

Even in the midst of all this chaos, against all odds, for thousands of years the people of God have been continually finding ways to maintain faith, hope, and love. How do we keep doing this?!? Can we possibly endure all these forest fires and burning rivers and pandemics and wars?!? How do we survive from generation to generation?!?

How do we maintain at least some little remnant of faith, hope and love?!?

It seems crazy. It seems impossible. And I honestly can’t say exactly what’s going to happen with future generations or that U.N. Report on Climate Change… But we keep on keeping on because it’s what God made us to do. It’s been programmed into us from the beginning of time.

Here in Kent this summer, we’ve had two Life Groups studying Genesis and two Life Groups studying Revelation. I got to be a part of one of the groups studying Genesis. And there was one particular phrase that popped out at me three different times throughout the course of the Genesis narrative. We hear it once in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28)… once on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 9:1-7)… and once in the place that came to be known as Bethel, or the “House of God” (Genesis 35:11). They’re all very different, very distinct occasions. But the phrase was exactly the same:

Be Fruitful and Multiply.

In my next post, I’ll explain more of the historical and biblical significance of this phrase. I’ll share more of the reasons why it seems to be especially relevant to our world today. And I’ll point to things happening here and now that should give us hope. Even when the world feels like it’s going up in smoke.

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