culture · identity

how to survive the weight of the world

My heart has been heavy this last year. And I’m pretty sure we all feel the same.

The American climate, altogether politically, emotionally, and spiritually, has been anything but healthy over the past twenty-four months.

Filled with anger, judgement, regret, fear, depression, anxiety, and so much more, we are left feeling empty, drained, confused, and frustrated at the weight of the world seemingly laid on our shoulders with no hope for escape.

We as a people were created to be in community, and we feel this most when we are overwhelmed and lonely. We reach for new avenues to bring us happiness like exploring new cities, adventuring in our backyards, and spending time with friends.

But what happens when all of that gets taken away? When the world shuts down and we are forced to come up with new ways to entertain ourselves? Where do we turn? What do we do?

Many of us choose other ways to find happiness like movies, board games, books, and video games. We try distracting ourselves from our depression, sadness, and lack of fulfillment. But does that really solve the problem?

A couple months ago, my husband and I got a letter in the mail that our mortgage payment was increasing by a very large amount. Instead of praying and asking what God had in store for us, and held on tight to His promises of provision and restoration and peace, we began pushing harder in our jobs. We started striving for more, putting the weight and pressure on ourselves instead of the One who carried the cross for our burdens; for our penalty; for our destiny.

Instead of digging deeper into Scripture, leaning on God, asking for prayer in our small groups, and surrounding ourselves with good Christian friends that could be our support system, we tried to support ourselves. And you know where that left us? Feeling even more drained, depressed, anxious, and wiped out.

We as people feel like we have the weight of the entire world on our shoulders, but instead of leaning over to tip it off, we try to keep holding on and pushing forwards. We try to drag the Titanic through an iceberg minefield with a blindfold and a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole, desperately pretending to ignore the strain we endure and try to keep going.

Friends, we were not made for this. We were not made to take hold of all the problems of our planet and carry them on our backs, thinking this somehow will make that same broken world a better place. We feel like we have to manage all our friends’ and family’s emotions and keep in control of everything around us, but this just isn’t the case.

The book of Ecclesiastes, commonly accepted as written by King Solomon, is a powerful example of what we are all experiencing right now. Specifically in chapter 2, Solomon writes about how he pursued earthly pleasures and material things, but he quickly found that by putting all his worth and energy into them, they all became meaningless.

God didn’t create this world to perfectly fulfill our longing to be filled. He created a spirit within us to be filled and satisfied by Him, our Creator. Even in the Garden of Eden, the Lord was still present, walking and talking with Adam and Eve! His presence was consistently there, engaging in conversation and close friendship. They were never alone; they were always in community with the Father.

So when we start to feel empty, why do we turn to things of this world to feel happier when we know the only thing that can truly do that is by getting closer to God?

I know this is something I struggle with on the daily, like I admitted earlier. Instead of running to God, I run to other things like my job and my business. I run to reading books that make me laugh, watching movies that take my mind of my stresses, and even diving deeper into other ventures!

But friends, this is not what we were made to do. In the words of a favorite song of mine, “God is our source. These things are not the source – they are the resource”.

Let’s dig deeper into this: when God created us, what did he do? He didn’t just shove us in a black box so we couldn’t be distracted by anything else, and completely be focused on Him. He created the earth first, the animals, and the beauty of it all to reflect HIS glory and HIS beauty. So when He put us on the earth, He did it so we could enjoy it too!

And guess what? Solomon realized this also! In chapter 3, he mentions that God really does make everything beautiful in its time, and that there is nothing better than for us to try our very best to be happy and do good while we live.

God gave us this world, this life, and the things in this world for us to enjoy. He knows how to love us and give us good things (Matthew 7:11, James 1:17)! By intentionally crafting the world to reflect His glory, He wants to be sought out and known by us, instead of us focusing all our energy on the world that He created. Do you see the difference?

Just because we love what God has given us, doesn’t mean we are sinning and “loving things of the world”. And just because we are devoted to God, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the things God put here either!

So back to feeling empty. If you keep reading in Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon also addresses the fact that there is time for everything under heaven. Recognizing every emotion, struggle, and joy we endure has a time and a place really does give perspective on what we are called to endure in our lives:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (NIV)

Friends, we are in a time where it is time to mourn. Freedoms and livelihoods are being taken away, people are literally being murdered for believing in Jesus, and millions are dying due to an ever-changing and morphing international pandemic.

People within the same church are making enemies of one another, simply because of differing viewpoints. Extreme anger, criticism, and harshness are corrupting and controlling once passionate hearts all over, and this is especially coming to light in social media. When was the last time we took a step back and realized we were all fighting for the same thing? The health, safety, and protection of our families?

We once were laughing and dreaming about our summer plans in 2020. We hunkered down, waited, and began to dance as mandates were lifted. We are in mourning and sometimes quarantines again, but friends, take heart. We may be in a season of sadness, but this too will end. Seasons come and seasons go, but as we well know, the Word of the Lord endures forever.

We were not given a spirit of fear. We are not called to live in conflict with one another. Peace and love has always been the message of Christ – when are we going to start living this out again?

I’m not perfect in this, and I am confident you aren’t either. We will survive this, and we will come out the other side rejoicing, knowing that God ultimately wins the war. This may look different for you, and it may look different for me, but here’s what we need to be clinging to during this time: God chose us to be an inheritance. We aren’t just some trash flung on the side of the road, waiting to be scooped up and dropped in the dump heap. He selected us. He chose us. And He won’t leave us.