In my last week’s article we looked at the essence of hope. Today, let’s explore the question, ‘What is your final authority in life? The excitements and celebrations of Christmas and New Year are over and soon we will settle down to the realities of life in 2014.
When you come face to face with real challenges in life, “What is your final authority in life?” I mean, when you’re cornered, when you’re up against it, when you’re forced to face reality, upon what do you lean?
Before you answer too quickly, think about it for a few moments. When it comes to establishing a standard for morality, what’s your ruler? When you need an ethical compass to find your way out of an ethical jungle, where’s north? When you’re on a stormy, churning sea of emotions, which lighthouse shows you where to find the shore?
Let me get even more specific. Later in the year you are not feeling better and soon you realised that your situation is getting worse.
You’re disturbed about it. You finally talked to yourself into seeing a doctor. The surgeon probes, and pushes, asks some pertinent questions, takes a few X rays, and finally says to you with a frown, “I am concern about the state of your health. The doctor decided to admit you for further observation. You churn inside while the doctor talks. After the procedure he pays a visit to your room and tells you that his report isn’t good. In fact, he quietly informs you, “It is cancer.” The worst kind of cancer. How do you handle that? To whom or to what do you turn? You need something solid to lean on. What is it?
Here’s another: You’ve worked very, very hard in your business. Your diligence has been marked by integrity, loyalty, and sacrifice. You’ve given up a lot of personal desires and comforts so that the business might grow. You’ve poured what little bit of profit you’ve made right back into the operation. And you’ve never once compromise your principles. But during the last few hours you’ve discovered that your product, which has taken the best years of your life to perfect, will soon be obsolete, due to a recent technological breakthrough. In fact, it appears that within the next few months you may lose everything. The awful reality of financial bankruptcy suddenly looms like a massive shadow. Where do you turn? How do you stay on your feet?
Just one more: You’ve been married a little over twenty-five years. You and your spouse have reared three now adult children. One will soon finish college, and the other two are gone, both happily married. You’re thinking that the future will soon reward you with married. You’re thinking that the future will soon reward you with relief and relaxation. You have been faithful to your spouse. You’ve worked hard and you’ve given yourself to this marriage. Out of the blue one evening your partner sits down beside you and begins by saying, “I… can’t keep something from you any longer. There’s someone else in my life. In fact, I don’t want to be married anymore. I….I don’t love you. I don’t want to be in this home anymore. I want out of the marriage. I’m divorcing you.” What gives you the stability you need to continue your life? How do you keep from becoming bitter? Where do you turn to find hope amidst such rejection?
I’ve worked with people for more than twenty-five years. And I’ve seen them in the worst kind of crisis. I’ve seen some who could not take it. They ultimately took their lives, and I buried them. I’ve seen others who lost their minds. Some lost their will to go on. Others became physically ill or attempted to dodge the reality of the pain through drugs and alcohol abuse. I’ve visited with them, and tried to help them through it.
It has been my observation through the years that people usually do one of the four things when they faced with information like this. I think of these responses as common crutches on which people lean.
The first I would call, for lack of a better title, escapism. Most people, at least initially, escape the reality of the pain. They run. They either run away emotionally or they literally run in physical ways through travel or affairs or chemical dependence. They deny the horror of what has happened. They refuse to let reality run its course and take its toll on them. They escape.
Secondly, I’ve noticed many people turn to cynicism. They not only face their troubles, they become preoccupied with them. And they grow dark within. Surprise leads to disillusionment. And they let that fester into resentment and finally bitterness. Often they spend the balance of their lives trying to take revenge. They become victims of their own lack of forgiveness. They begin to live out the message on the bumper sticker: “I don’t get mad…I get even.” Whether their hostility is directed toward God, or some other person, they turn to cynicism. More often than not, the cynic ships the faith as bitterness wins the final victory.
Third, there is the crutch of humanism. They listen to the counsel of some other person, rather than God. They get their logic and their reasoning from a man or a woman or a book. They turn to self-help, people’s opinion, and self-realisation. They try human reasoning, which inevitably is based on the horizontal wisdom of man. And it leaves them empty, it leaves them lacking. And they do not really come to terms with the truth of what they could learn through the whole experience.
Fourth, the crutch of supernaturalism. This is a more common practice today in our society. Some people turn to mediums. They seek information from the other world. They get in touch with fallen angels, evil spirits and demonic powers. More and more connect with the occult as they are trying to cope with their world of pain.
Popular though these four crutches may be, escapism, cynicism, humanism, and supernaturalism, they do not provide any sense of ultimate relief and satisfaction. They leave the victim more desperately confused that at the beginning. None of the above is an acceptable “final authority.”
So I returned to the question I asked from the beginning, ‘What is your final authority in life?’ What hold you together when all hell breaks loose around you?
There can be no more reliable authority on earth than God’s Word, the Bible. The timeless, trustworthy source of truth holds the key that unlocks life’s mysteries. It alone provides us with the shelter we need in times of storm.
Rev. Eric D. Maefonea