The days in which we now live go in circles, don’t they? Whirling tornadoes of activity. A person labors for a good life. People pour themselves into buying a home, raising children, belonging to groups of good friends, supporting a better community, doing all sorts of positive things. Yet all their labor seems to amount to well-meant but meaningless effort. It’s undone in an instant.
Look at the emptiness all around us. Every morning the news tells us about someone who was so desperate she robbed a bank or he raped a woman. The offspring from not only the ghetto shoot each other over nothing but also those of the middle class home shoot schoolmates. The world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. It’s already there! A parent’s hope and dream for a child is destroyed, by the child’s own action, or someone else’s infantile deed.
Look at the emptiness. The excitement of so-called reality shows is artificial, unreal, yet they are popular evening viewing. People who seek meaningful relationships keep looking for them in one bar after another, and seldom find their “soulmate.” A lay-off at work is followed by arguments over money at home until home life is under-appreciated. Politicians spout the same causes as in the last election without the admission that nothing was done to improve on the problems, except to make them worse. The whirling circles of life spin the mind and heart until we are disoriented.
How can human effort become meaningful?
Write a self-improvement book. Develop labor saving products. Enter medical school. Clean up university locker rooms. On and on, we could list positive, life-affirming actions that people take. I admit that doing good works will improve the world. Something edifying always builds instead of tears down. Yet these actions don’t change much, don’t make permanent improvements in the world as a whole. A little good is better than no good, I suppose.
But how can human effort become meaningful for all time?
Only by improving the human being. And this takes a divine hand together with a surrendered heart. God must act to remake the human being, and the human being must cooperate through surrender. This happens every day. People finally realize all their efforts are meaningless, because they are mis-directed. So they give up in a positive sense. They give up to the Lord. They surrender their souls to Jesus Christ, whose Spirit has been prodding them for years to drop their guard and dare to believe. When they surrender, God is able to put new meaning where emptiness used to be. He is able to re-create the surrendered heart and make it consistently good. The divine effort and human effort then combine to remake the world. Even this is not a complete re-manufacturing of a broken world into a good one. There has to be an end made of the vain world, and this God alone can do and plans to do. For the moment, those who find Christ also find an abundant life that’s worth the effort.