Out of the Depths
"When other springs of comfort dry up there is always one left to us. And that, as Mother often said, is usefulness" From Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss.
When in the throes of our own personal tragedies, or when we come to realize the magnitude of evil which besets us at every turn, we often are tempted to despair. It seems no comfort, no diversion, no effort of ours is available to restore our peace and equilibrium.
We are faced every day with news of car bombings, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders, crimes born of hatred and greed, betrayal by leaders who were given our trust, vicious attacks on pregnant women and innocent children, and our own personal losses and tragedies. The Amish school shootings epitomized, for me, the sad fact that there is no safe place in this world. I should have known that already, of course, but I guess I was still clinging to some unrealistic fantasy that perhaps there might be anything in this world that was off-limits to seemingly random, pointless evil.
I have now been disabused of this notion. This is rightly so, because we all need to understand that this world is not our home, and that our true home is in heaven with the Lord Jesus, where there will be no more suffering and sorrow.
Until he calls me home, however, I still need to be here, and not only to be here but to be His ambassador. I'm thinking that I don't need to have any more toys or entertainment to distract me from reality. Instead He calls me and all of us to occupy, to take back the ground that the enemy has overrun, to be the hands and feet of the God of love in the world about us.
There will be times when our hearts are broken within us, when life seems without meaning, color or flavor. What then? As Mrs. Prentiss says in her brilliant book, we are left with usefulness as a last comfort. We can do things for other people, for our families, friends, the church and community. We can write, we can make soup, we can give little gifts, and perhaps, thereby, alleviate someone else's suffering. We can hold a door open for the guy behind us, or just give someone the courtesy of looking at their face when they are speaking to us. Giving words of encouragement and kindness do not cost us anything. Equally as good, we might rein ourselves in and leave unkind, unedifying words unsaid.
We can do our work in the most thoughtful, and excellent way possible. We do this in defiance of the chaos which ceaselessly imposes itself on the universe. Though we die without having finished the work, perhaps someone will come after us to take it up. This is called progress. We can take the raw materials of our lives and make a work of art out of them, and in so doing participate in the work of Creation. Think about it. Who brought order out of chaos? Who created existence out of the void? Do we not, in a feeble, tiny way cooperate with the Creator when, despite adverse circumstances, we bring order to our homes and workplaces, or even just clean out and organize a drawer? There is something that happens when we go about our duties; we make sense out of the senseless. We can be a blessing to ourselves and others when we keep our time and our homes under control. Cosmos from chaos. Doing this can help us to not be overwhelmed by our emotions, and I contend it is more therapeutic than Prozac, and more helpful than going to a guy who will listen to you for forty-five minutes if you have the right insurance.
I am not saying there will never be exceptions, or little emergencies which pop up, but we should strive to keep reasonably organized, because it makes everyone's life a little sweeter. Doesn't everybody's day go a little better if they can find a pair of clean socks in the morning and there is milk in the refrigerator for a child's breakfast cereal? Yes, I know that cleaning out a drawer and taking something out of the freezer in time to thaw for supper will not stop a nuclear attack. But our tiny little actions are the bricks and mortar of civilization, and we must go about our lives with dogged, insistent hope. Besides, nuclear disarmament begins at home.
So, especially when we are brokenhearted, or tempted to despair, we can take some comfort in being useful. Remember, your useful, helpful actions make room for unexpected joy. When you open your heart enough to serve others, contentment and peace will inevitably enter in.