About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
John Donne, who died in 1631, critiqued the madness of the world in an essay which he called, “An Anatomy of the World.” He said, “And so the world had fits; it joy’d, it mourn’d….” In the death of his mistress whom he loved, he sees a picture of the sickness of the world. Anyone who loses someone close to him, says, “Life is not fair!” Paul would have agreed. Writing to the Romans he argued, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).
It’s the madness, the sadness, and the unfairness of life that either drives you to God or puts you in opposition to Him. Abraham Lincoln, the man who struggled with the weight of a divided country, with brother fighting against brother, once said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the realization that there was nowhere else to go.”
Most of our trials today revolve around three issues: your health, your wealth, and your happiness. If you are under age 30, the order of concern is probably your happiness, your wealth, and then your health. If you are between 30 and 55, the order of concern is your wealth, your happiness, and your health, but after age 55, your health comes first, your wealth comes next, and your happiness follows.
Yet there is something significant about the trials we face in an imperfect, broken world. The difficulties which we would avoid like the plague accomplish God’s purpose in life, showing us His strength, making us more compassionate, more Christ-like, and more pleasant to be around. Eugene Peterson paraphrases what Peter wrote, saying, “When life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter 4:12-13 The Message).
You never know for sure the strength of the bridge that spans the troubled waters, over the raging white water you don’t want to wade through, until you put your weight on it and discover it is strong enough to hold you safe and secure. That’s how your faith in God is, when the world seems to have gone mad and you seem to become its victim.
For a number of years I was involved in family conferences sponsored by Moody Bible Institute. Each morning the five speakers for the conference would meet for breakfast and share our experiences. One day Dr. Lehman Strauss told of a dark trial which challenged everything he believed about God. His wife, Elsie, who had never been sick a day in her life, was felled by a stroke.
Lehman told how she was hospitalized. Then as she made slow recovery the doctor told him, “Lehman, we’ve got to move her. Why don’t you talk to Elsie and let her know what’s happening?” He said with sadness he went to her room and told her what the doctor said, adding, “But, Elsie, God is in control!” Then, he broke down and wept as he sobbed, “Elsie, is God really in control?” Here was a stalwart veteran, a man who had preached the Word for years, yet what had happened was challenging.
He went on to explain that in the days ahead, he and his wife read the Word together, day after day, and it was the strength of what God p.romised that took them through this dark hour.
When your world is turned upside down, go to the Bible, and there you will find strength and encouragement. It will help you keep your sanity in a mad, mad world.
Resource reading: Daniel 6