“I’m tired. Is any of this really making a difference? Are we simply kicking against the goads? Are we just rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic? Are our efforts in vain? Are we simply biding our time until the world ends, fire consumes it all, and it’s over?”
Many have asked these questions at some point in their life. At times what we do seems so futile in the grand scheme of the problems of this world. The immensity of the need wipes out any significance of our service. We feel as if nothing is worthwhile.
Or perhaps our problem is other. Maybe we are so focused on the immediate, the nearby, that we have forgotten that there is something more out there. The concerns of daily life, of family, of church, have become so all-encompassing that it is impossible to see that there is something else available to us. We’ve forgotten that God is about more than my small, local experience.
Regardless of how it happens, whether through hopeless exasperation at the odds of actually making a difference or the blind unconsciousness that there is something more to this life, we can end up hopelessly wondering what this is all worth. Why does it matter what we do? We know that there are things we are supposed to be doing, and maybe even doing those things brings us life and joy. We can’t help but wonder, though, if it’s really worth it. Are we simply putting a fresh coat of pain on a house that is rapidly burning to the ground?
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, concludes all of his discussions by talking about resurrection. He writes about how central resurrection is to our faith. He speaks in extremes. If Jesus didn’t rise it means we won’t rise either and therefore our faith is in vain and we are to be pitied more than any other people. If that is the case we might as well eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. What’s the use of wasting all of our time fighting against insurmountable odds to attempt to bring peace, love, justice, and mercy to a world that’s rapidly disintegrating in bodies that are here today and gone tomorrow? Let us enjoy life and then die, says Paul.
Paul knows, however, that the story doesn’t end that way.
Paul realized that at times both the pettiness of our infighting and the enormity of the job at hand can eclipse the reason for which we are doing what we are doing. In the letter to the Corinthians Paul talks about such mundane things as eating meat and such complicated things as Spiritual giftedness and church conflict. All of these things have the power to distract us from what life is all about. They have the power to blind us to what God is really doing in our midst.
The Christian hope has never simply been going to heaven when we die. It’s never been so simplistic. The Bible shows us an image of a God who is interested in much more than some disembodied paradise full of ghosts. God is working to redeem and to resurrect everything. Paul wants us to remember that there will be a resurrection when all the work that we put forward towards good will come through to the other side. All of our efforts for good, for redemption, for love, for reconciliation, for peace, for mercy, for hope, and for faith will find their ways into this new fabric of life that God is working on. On this very topic (and a large inspiration to my thoughts here), N.T. Wright says:
“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
So if there is ever a moment when the task seems so large that you can never attain it, or if there is a day when all the pettiness and insignificance of your life gets in your way, remember that God is doing something much bigger with you and your life. Remember that God is remaking you, one decision, one action at a time, and the more that you follow the Spirits guidance, the more you will become the person you will be in resurrection.