Hope, despite a world of ironies

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachFifty years ago, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson announced his War on Poverty: “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” His goal was not to give a hand-out but a hand-up to help people move out of poverty. Now 50 years, multiple government programs and trillions of dollars later, 47 million people are dependent on government for food stamps—13 million more than just six and one-half years ago. A government report gave this assessment:

Rather than provide a road map out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that often are difficult to navigate. Some programs provide critical aid to families in need. Others discourage families from getting ahead. And for many of these programs, we just don’t know. There’s little evidence either way.

Such ironies abound in our world. Here are two more:

  • Though the U.S. Federal government has reached record spending levels on education, Standard Achievement Test scores are in serious decline.
  • Though the U.S. news media was all a-twitter about a big-game hunter who paid for a license and permit to hunt and kill a lion in Africa, the same media essentially ignored the tragic and callous talk from doctors filmed talking about selling infant body parts harvested from aborted fetuses.

Ironies like these reflect the reality that we live in a fallen world. In Genesis we are told that Adam and Eve decided to direct their own steps rather than listen to God. All humanity followed suit, choosing for themselves what is good and what is evil, making their own paths accordingly. The results we now experience were prophesied by Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

Apart from God, humanity loses its ability to accurately distinguish between good and evil. Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot are notorious examples. As noted by French philosopher Simone Weil in her book Gravity and Grace, “Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.” People engaged in evil often convince themselves they are doing what is good. We see this in our day in the high percentage of pregnancies terminated by abortion—it’s a shocking irony that people will mobilize against killing animals but not against the killing of unborn humans.

When we lack awareness of the real God, our focus easily collapses on the self, yielding self-preservation, self-promotion and self-absorption. Apart from God we do what feels good to us—what seems “right” in our own eyes (Judges 17:6 ESV). This is a great irony, because we were never meant to live without God. We were created to be in relationship with him, though, sadly, that relationship was broken by sin. But God created us with a plan in place to deal with sin and restore that relationship. That plan, of course, is Jesus, and Jesus teaches us to live in this broken world with lives surrendered to the sovereign God of holy love. He taught us that no matter how many perplexing ironies we encounter, we can be comforted knowing the ultimate outcome—Christ will return and restore things as they were created to be.

We look forward to that time when all will be set right (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20) in a renewed heaven and earth where every tear is wiped away (Revelation 21:4). God has not allowed anything that he can’t and won’t in the end redeem (Romans 8:17-25). Indeed, evil has no future (Ephesians 1:21-22; Colossians 2:15). But we don’t have to wait until the final consummation to benefit here and now from God’s promises. Despite the often depressing ironies of the present time, and the certainty that one day we will die, we know that God has invested in us and will never abandon the work he has begun in us. Eternal life is knowing this ever-faithful God who is always with us, and this knowing, this salvation, is an eternal relationship. The apostle Paul instructed us to encourage each other with the hope that comes with this knowledge:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Filled with hope by the good and faithful Word of God,
Joseph Tkach

7 thoughts on “Hope, despite a world of ironies”

  1. Powerful Joe! So well put. Thanks for lifting our eyes to the One who IS our hope and who has always been the “anchor for our soul”.

  2. I was part of the War on Poverty as a recently graduated high school senior. I worked at a state park. Some federal people came to assess how we were doing. I told them we were winning the battle, but losing the war. I later became a social worker and had to learn that spiritual problems demand a spiritual answer. I have told people that the answer is not a program, but a Person.

    Ken Emerson

  3. My own humble submission on the effects of poverty is that generally, people think that there is value in receiving, when the opposite is true. It is this mindset that has left this world into a sorry state of poverty.

    Every human being ought to know that he/she is a valuable treasure for the planet, because he/she was created in God’s image. Instead of encouraging people to realize their potential, they are generally invalidated to assume that they are incapable as to deserve assistance. This is a lie that Satan has successfully advanced throughout the ages.

    If the following question was to be put across the world for all humanity to answer individually, what would it reveal?:

    What is the purpose of your life?

    The truth being told, the answer to this question would reveal that humanity’s purpose of life is to cause problems, among which poverty is one of them. However, if each individual were to realize the purpose being value addition, using the talent and capability each of them would utilize for the benefit of other people, there would be no poverty to talk about.

    The truth is that the value of each individual is more than any precious thing that can be imagined. Yet, the existent survival systems suppress potential ideas in false belief that other people are more important than others. Thereby setting aside the status of each individual having been created in the image of God.

    The world will continue to morn and whine on the effects of poverty, yet neglecting the causes of poverty—the wrong educational systems.

    I refuse to believe that there is a human being who cannot add value in this world, except that we have educational systems that were crafted to invalidate other human beings, as to make them feel incapacitated–in need of assistance.

  4. Joe, I had been thinking about this lately and you put it nicely. It seems like the harder we try to fix things the deeper the hole we dig. We have no sense of right and wrong and we drift. We need Jesus otherwise we are going nowhere with our problems. Succinctly put! There is hope.

  5. Mr. Tkach,
    Thank you so much. Totally agree. We( believers) walk in the muck and mire at times as we have NO Hope. As you stated this world is full of self helps etc. that will attempt to cradle the need for a caretaker. We gravitate to so many areas to suck on this need to be satisfied.
    However, the Good News for all those who want to know that these needs and appetite can all be satisfied through the satisfaction of what God provided through the Lord.
    As believers we shouldn’t walk as people that are looking forward to Eternal Life even though it is such a wonderful hope to have. But rather we should walk in the security and certainty that the Gospel outlines for “whosoever” in the ETERNAL LIFE we already possess.
    Knowing that this area of life is satisfied and has been satisfied nails so many of the cravings we look for in trying to have this craving figured out.
    Sure ,Our Lord is coming and as sounded out through the ages..SOON..But, if we have and have come to a full acknowledgment of what His first coming meant for humanity and we have received Him in our own lives He has already arrived.
    Shouting His praises on how God can take a separated soul, that He already knew was going to be born in separation and unite it to Himself is what we celebrated The Feast of Tabernacles about for many years.
    God for man, God becomes man, God unites man. Its a wonderful full circle in this very thing we all share in this complicated mess we have created called LIFE.
    We rejoice because we HAVE LIFE. and more abundantly because we have Him.

    thank you sir
    tom

  6. Thanks Joe; your feature turned out to provoke insightful responses which I also appreciate. As another example of irony, several years ago Scott Peterson was found guilty of killing his pregnant wife. He was, however, accused of 2 counts of murder that included his unborn son. They even referred to him by his name-to-be, Conner. If it was murder for him to have killed his unborn son, why is it NOT seen as murder to abort thousands of in-the-womb infants annually? Being an activist and supporter of a pro-life clinic for some 15 years, I was really struck by this case as a huge hypocritical irony. Indeed it is another example of the inconsistent and oxymoronic fallen world. You pointed out the Hope we have in the person of Jesus as you consistently do. JR

  7. Joe, your letter got me thinking about the prevalence in our world of “situational irony,” which typically is about unfulfilled hopes and dreams. In that regard, I came across the poem below by A.E. Housman, titled “Is My Team Ploughing?” I thank God that, in Christ, what seems in this life to be meaningless or even meant for evil, is redeemed and turned for our ultimate good. Perhaps that is the ultimate irony.

    Is my team ploughing,
    That I was used to drive
    And hear the harness jingle
    When I was man alive?

    Aye, the horses trample,
    The harness jingles now;
    No change though you lie under
    The land you used to plow.

    Is football playing
    Along the river shore,
    With lads to chase the leather,
    Now I stand up no more?

    Aye, the ball is flying,
    The lads play heart and soul;
    The goal stands up, the keeper
    Stands up to keep the goal.

    Is my girl happy,
    That I thought hard to leave,
    And has she tired of weeping
    As she lies down at eve?

    Ay, she lies down lightly,
    She lies not down to weep:
    Your girl is well contented.
    Be still, my lad, and sleep.

    Is my friend hearty,
    Now I am thin and pine,
    And has he found to sleep in
    A better bed than mine?

    Yes, lad, I lie easy,
    I lie as lads would choose;
    I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,
    Never ask me whose.

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