"It makes little difference whether one dies at the age of thirty or threescore and ten," said Meursault in Camus's The Stranger, since in either case, other men and women will continue living, the world will go on as before."
"What difference does anything make, really? It matters little whether you get up or stay in bed, whether you love life or hate it. Stab yourself in the hand, like Sartre's Mathieu, shoot a person in the hot Algerian sun like Camus's "Stranger", or just wander, Hemingwayesque, from one bar to another, picking fights. Life goes on whether you strive to change it or merely succumb to it."
The above quotes are taken from Philip Yancey's book: "The Bible Jesus Read". The subject is existential despair and Yancey provides a captivating chapter discussing despair within the mystery of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. I wonder how many people in the United States can relate to the quotes above? How many wrestle with whether life really matters? The author of Ecclesiastes certainly had many questions.
To continue quoting from Yancey's book:
"Despair arises out of circumstances of plenty rather than deprivation. Existential despair did not germinate in the hell holes of Auschwitz or Siberia but rather in the cafes of Paris, the coffee shops of Copenhagen, the luxury palaces of Beverly Hills. After a trip into Eastern Europe during the Cold War, novelist Philip Roth reported: "In the West, everything goes and nothing matters. While in the East, nothing goes and everything matters."
"A clue into the origin of existential despair appears in a phrase early on in Ecclesiastes, when the Teacher exclaims: "What a heavy burden God has laid on men!" (1:13) He goes on to describe the burden in biographical detail. The Teacher's burden did not involve personal misfortune, but was, to the contrary, a burden of excess."
I received many comments on yesterday's blog and many personal emails about the post as well: Some expressed fear to step out of the box to adopt a stranger, even though that stranger is a homeless child. One couldn't understand why adopting orphans should be the believers' responsibility.....it was suggested it might be the international country's responsibility to take care of their own. Still others shared a strong desire to do something, but can't seem to get their spouses on board with them. Thank you for all of the emails and comments. It is good when we challenge one another's thoughts and stretch our comfort zones.
I have shared the above quotes from Yancey's book, because I believe he is really onto something big. I know many who are considered wealthy. They have the big house, the fine automobiles, and two or three perfect children. They stuff their lives with high-power jobs in an all too common pursuit of getting ahead, they endlessly promote their children's private school/sports activity schedules, and keep a calendar full of popular social agendas. But they aren't happy, and it shows. Yes, they put on a cheerful face....but in their eyes, happiness is missing. In their marriages, love is missing. After only being in their company for a little while, it becomes painfully obvious they are simply marking time and putting forth their very best attempts to avoid an ever-present depression by filling their schedules with meaningless activity.
Take the polar opposite----Chappy spent two weeks in Africa visiting missionaries. One of those missionaries was a seventy-something year old woman named Ellie. Her husband was killed in a car accident last year, so she has been left a widow. Ellie has worked among the impoverished, AIDS ravaged Africans for over fifty years. She has worked tirelessly to feed them, love them, and teach them about God for the majority of her life. She has no luxuries whatsoever, and yet, she radiates pure joy. She has so much joy in her life, Chappy says when you are around her for even a few moments, her joy jumps onto you. It spreads.
The difference? One word. PURPOSE! Our Designer did not create us to mark time. He created us for work----not a job----but Kingdom Work. Caring for "the least"....doing for others. In prosperous societies, suicide rates, the incidence of alcoholism/drugs, abortion rates, divorce rates, and the occurrences of violent crimes sky rocket. One would think the opposite would be true, but it isn't.
If you have never been involved in orphan ministry, I hope you will step out and decide to do something about the 147 million orphan crisis.....especially as it pertains to orphans with Down Syndrome who are being thrown into mental institutions to die when they reach the age of four. When your life is "perfect" and "comfortable", does it seem nuts to take a risk and "rock the family boat" to welcome another child into your home? Of course it does.....especially when that child has special needs. Does it seem crazy to give up a want to help someone else's need? If you have never done something like that, sure it does. But all it takes is the first step, and God will meet you there. When on the path, you will find purpose.....and joy. Remember, God did something totally nuts for us when He came to earth in a lowly manger, fully human and fully God, and then took on our sin by dying on the cross, even though He was completely innocent. He LOVES nuts! Especially when we go nuts for Him!
"Pure religion that is acceptable to our Father is this: to take care of widows and orphans who are in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) God is calling you to do something.....if you are reading this post, be certain, He is.