Your daily struggle is different from mine. This Corona has touched you differently than myself. I consider myself fortunate that I’ve been able to continue working through the shutdown, albeit on a limited basis. My wife has not been affected near as much I have, and we are doing ok. Had we both been forced to stay home and be furloughed, I don’t know that we would have made it. Like many others we would have tried to pay for things on credit, hoping for the stimulus check or Big Brother to help us.
I know it feels right now that faith and trust in God seems like some “pie in the sky” kind of thing, a false hope. Why bother with faith when I have real problems to deal with? If I have trouble feeding my family or paying my rent, what good is religion going to do me? That is a very good question. So let me ask you a follow-up question.
How do you decide what’s important during a shutdown? Is it any better to pay for rent and utilities with that government stimulus check than for a new TV or that new glittery thing you’ve has your eyes on? What is better to spend your money on? Your answer is inherently religious. Because in reality, money has no morals. TV’s and glitter, rent and utilities have no moral compunction. But you bring it with you. Buying a new TV will bring immediate happiness and will last for as long as you have power and a place to put it. If you value immediate happiness, then you will buy the new thing. However, if instead you value longer-term goals, like having a place to live, or food to eat or power and light, then you are applying value to long-term happiness. You are making a value judgment. Values come from somewhere. Where do they come from? Your world-view, and your world-view is shaped by your religion.
You may say, “I have no religion.” That may be formally true, but all of us have a value system that is based on what we see our role in the universe. If you see yourself as nothing, shaped by blobs of goo, then you apply no morality or value to anything, because all things are meaningless. You are going to buy that TV because they makes you happy. You may apply yourself to that blob theory, but see value in making others happy, like your landlord, or your spouse and children. If you see value in others and legitimate entities living beside you in this meaningless universe, then, despite the worthlessness of all things, you still value companionship and well-being between individuals, and will pay the rent and the utilities. But all decision inherently possess a judgment of some kind based on a set of ideals (and experience from prior judgment) that in some form or fashion is your religion.
Religion is only that formal relationship and ritual you have developed (whether alone or in concert with others) to rectify your position in the universe. Your values and judgments come from that religion. You can be a complete atheist and still have religion, because religion is how you’ve have decided the issues of the universe and how you will interact with them. Questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” and “Who is the final authority in my life?” give us the answers that decide what kind of religion we have, and the values we hold.
Christians are people who have been perpetually unsatisfied with the answers they’ve come up with themselves or that others have given them. For Christians, they look to the only authoritative book they know, and from their glean their answers to not only the questions above but about all the others questions worth asking. As a Christian, I find the Bible to be the best book for answering these questions, even though it comes from the tribal experience of one family on earth. Though it speaks directly to Israel, it speaks to all of us. God was not concerned only for Israel, but for every human being made in His image, which is all of them. God loves all of us. And this is the reason I make the decision I do, and why through all the turmoil and despair, I still have hope. I need this hope, because it makes the turmoil and despair bearable.
One line from the Princess Bride always haunts me. “Life is pain. And anyone that tells you different is selling something.” That is a succinct philosophy of life. I might suggest that Christianity is telling you different. Not that life isn’t painful, because it is, but that life is more than pain. Life is love. Life is peace. Life is turmoil. Life is despair, but life is also hope.
Heavenly Father, I pray today for my brothers and sisters around the world who are reading these words. I pray for their hope today. I pray that despite their life and their turmoil, You will grant them hope. I pray these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.