The Spiritual Disease Ravaging Our World – by Tim Challies
Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” Jesus said as He recalled the beauty of a common lily (Luke 12:27). And I suspect that even Solomon in all his splendor could not have imagined the sheer affluence that you and I enjoy today. The lily is here today and gone tomorrow, so fleeting and commonplace that we overlook its intricate beauty and fail to acknowledge the glory of the God who made and sustains it. Is it possible that we have grown so accustomed to our affluence that we have lost the wonder of it, too? Is it possible that our affluence harms us even as it blesses us?
Those of us who live in the developed world today enjoy a measure of wealth that is almost beyond understanding. This is the kind of wealth that billions of the world’s population can only dream of. This is wealth that previous generations could not have imagined. And it is not merely money that we enjoy in such abundance, but also comfort, influence, and so much else. We are incredibly, unbelievably, divinely blessed. And yet, many of us can identify that this wealth brings with it a kind of illness, a spiritual malaise that some have labeled “affluenza.” Are we sick with affluenza? And if so, is there a way that we can use and enjoy our affluence without succumbing to this ugly disease?
Sometimes it seems we’re further away than ever from family and friends. I can’t remember the last time I hugged someone just for the sake of hugging them. These days we call because we need an answer, words of comfort, information—rarely just because we need nearness.
Psalm 73:28 says, “The nearness of God is my good,” and these days, I need to remind myself of these words often. This week alone, our little family has a hundred different prayers that necessitate a hundred answers:
Researchers and leadership authors continually contend that the best leaders are those who love and care for those they lead. Examples include:
- In his seminal book Servant Leadership, published over forty years ago, Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leader” and painted a picture that the most effective leaders love and serve those they lead.
- In his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, researcher and author Daniel Goleman writes that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. They have the ability to manage their emotions, to genuinely connect with people, to offer kindness and empathy, to lead with joy and inspiration, and to display the master skill of patience.
Grounded in God’s Word
Where I live in the Middle East, people from many cultures love to comment about how I have my hands full. It’s not a figure of speech, because I literally have my hands full with four children swarming around me as we run errands. Without a hint of cynicism, men and women will say to me (as I take the groceries and little ones across the street like a ninja), “You are blessed!” I’m grateful for the reminders from my community that my children are blessings. But beyond whatever our culture’s view is of motherhood, Christians stand on eternal truth when we say that motherhood is a gift.
We read in God’s Word that people are God’s image bearers. Adam and Eve were given the royal task of filling the earth with more imagers of the one, true King (Gen. 1:26–28). Especially now, after the Fall, we see that life is a gift of grace, never to be presumed or rejected. Every minute of our lives has been numbered by a gracious God who does all things well. God has ordained all of our mothering seasons and moments “for such a time as this” until Jesus returns.
A few years ago, a series of circumstances and life choices incited a prolonged season of shock, grief and pain in places so deep I didn’t even know they existed. Embarrassed, confused and utterly devastated, I struggled to regain my equilibrium and adapt to losses that made no sense and caused me to question everything that was once certain.
Seasons of suffering are incredibly difficult to engage, yet they are part of our common human experience. At some point, we each will face something that takes us to the end of ourselves and offers the opportunity to be hardened, consumed or swallowed by hurt. What good could possibly come from pain this profound? How could losses this immense ever be settled? Where is there room for hope, let alone wholeness?
Suffering well doesn’t mean the season wraps up quickly, nor does it mean we’ll never think about it again. We may always wish certain things didn’t happen, and that is OK. What it does mean is sitting in the tension between the realities of pain and of God’s constant goodness. It also means experiencing fruit in a few poignant and personal ways. Reflecting on my journey, here are four ways I have gratefully experienced growth through suffering: