This week’s lesson reminds us of another rhythm of life—time of loss. Solomon said, “A time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl. 3:2a). Family life is the closest relationship that God instituted; when loss strikes our families, it hits us hard. Family life is important; for that reason, Jimmy Carter, the President of the United States of America (1977–81), urged personnel at the White House in a handwritten memorandum to spend “an adequate amount of time” with family members. Such is done to assure a stable family life. Written on White House stationery and signed “J. Carter,” the memorandum says:
I am concerned about the family lives of all of you. I want you to spend an adequate amount of time with your husbands, wives, and children, and also to involve them as much as possible in our White House life. We are going to be here a long time, and all of you will be more valuable to me and the country with rest and a stable home life. In emergencies we’ll all work full time. Let me have your comments.”1
When Adam and Eve sinned and ate of the forbidden fruit; they experienced—for the first time—the loss of an intimate relationship between themselves and ultimately with God. Adam and Eve lost their health—from immortal beings they became mortal, from imperishable they became perishable. The fall brought with it chronic pain, disease, sickness, terminal illness, to mention but a few. In one way or another, suffering, sickness, depression, and death remain a mystery until Christ defeats all by His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13). The Bible says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:26).
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis penned the following words:
Pain is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.2
Another loss the author talks about is the loss of trust. Because of the intrusion of sin, man lost confidence with his fellow man. To build trust with one another takes time and patience. Broken relationships can be repaired once trust is restored to its proper place. Loss of trust can even exist in the family circles between husband and wife, parent and child. The most attacked institution is the marriage institution; Satan knows that if he succeeds in destroying families, then he will own the world. Satan does his level best to destroy families—through sickness, divorce, and violence.
In his book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon lists the following reasons for that fall:
1. The rapid increase of divorce; the undermining of dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
2. Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. The mad craze for pleasure; sports becoming every year more exciting and more brutal.
4. The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within: the decadence of the people.
5. The decay of religion—faith fading into mere form—losing touch with life and becoming impotent to guide the people.3
Do these five reasons for the fall of Rome tell us anything about our present national situations? Sad to say, most of the above listed reasons—if not all—fit the societies in which we live.
Loss of health, loss of trust, and loss of freedom all are connected to one another. Most of us blame freedom for the existence of sin. Freedom does not account for sin, and sin is unrelated to freedom. In other terms, freedom does not explain the rise of sin. God in His infinite wisdom has authentic freedom; at the same time, He cannot sin. I like the words of Merrill C. Tenney, who said,
True freedom is constituted by ability to do the good, not by a morally unqualified faculty to do either the one or the other. Freedom belongs to the essence of human beings as created by God and as restored by Christ; in neither instance is it a morally neutral and unqualified aspect of humanity.4
The soul is fully responsible for the power of choice, while the flesh is responsible for freedom of action. The flesh can be subjected under the power of spirit. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6). In the words of Guido Stucco,
Freedom does not sin without the will, though the will can sin without freedom. . . if someone becomes blind, having been subjected to the lust of the eyes, the freedom of his eyes has been lost, but the will still remain in his power; it is through the choice of his mind that he is still troubled by lust. Thus, Christ calls a person adulterous even when he is not committing adultery, just for looking lustfully at a woman (Matt. 5:28); since that person has the will, it is not necessary for him to have freedom of action in order to sin. A person is guilty through his own will, even if he does not commit an evil deed.5
From the loss of freedom, we move to the loss of life—death. Regardless of what form it descends on humans, death is the enemy of man. However, death is not the end of those who believe in Christ. The psalmist calls death a sleep (Ps. 13:3; 90:5) for believers in Christ. Ellen G White concurs:
To the believer, death is but a small matter … To the Christian, death is but asleep, a moment of silence and darkness. The life is hid with Christ in God, and “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.6
During this phase of life, one may experience violence, sickness, disease, injustice, hatred, and different kinds of losses—including one’s spouse, children, family members and relatives. Contrary to that, the Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). While most religions may have some forms of love, Christian theology stresses the significance of God’s love, because God has revealed that He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both what God is and what He has done; God always acts in love. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Rom. 8:35-36).
At the end, there is a victory to those who stand firm on the Word of God. John the apocalypse said, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4). That is, there will be no more tears, no more bruises, no more death, no more loneliness, no more violence, no more loss of heath, no more divorce, no more fear, no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more loss of life, no more lack of trust, and love shall reign forever and ever. Even so, Come Lord Jesus.
Notes & References:
1. Norris Samuel Curry, The Methodist Preacher: Prophet, Priest and Pastor: An Experience, a Call, a Preparation, an Appointment, a Retirement (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan 2009), 78.
2. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009), 86.
3. Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2016)
4. Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2010), 5:75.
5. Guido Stucco, God's Eternal Gift: A History of the Catholic Doctrine of Predestination from Augustine to the Renaissance (New York, NY: Xlibris, 2009), 672.
6. Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1940), 787.
Youssry Guirguis currently serves as a full-time Lecturer at Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), Muak Lek, Thailand and also as an adjunct professor at the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies at Middle East University (MEU), Beirut, Lebanon.
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