How does the future look to you? In parts of the world like where I am at present, covid is retreating and life begins to return to ‘normal’. You may be reading this in a nation or region where life is anything but normal, instead perhaps in lockdown or curfew of some kind. In just four days, I have another birthday. That is always a time to reflect on the year behind, and what lies ahead. In looking back, what a year it has been. Lockdown for much of the year of some nature, getting covid myself which turned out to be the ‘long-haul’ version. I had another doctor appointment this week, still perhaps with some lasting medical issues thankfully not as severe.
I have been thinking this week about a hero of mine in history who endured some of the greatest hardships anyone can imagine. His name is William Carey (1761-1834), the Baptist missionary to West Bengal in India. When I was 16 years old, I was part of a church team that went to Vancouver, BC and led a Vacation Bible School. One of the themes that week was on Carey’s life, and I taught some of the lessons. Little did I know that seven years later I would be on my own journey to Kolkata, India, to pioneer work there for my mission organization.
On the night of March 11, 1812, at Carey and his fellow workers’ base of operations in Serampore, just down the Hooghly river from Kolkata, a devastating fire ripped through their warehouse. In a few hours, 14 different language printing blocks for translations of the New Testament were destroyed with no backups, twelve hundred reams of paper and other invaluable manuscripts were also lost. Fortunately the printing press itself was saved, and within days Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward were back at work translating again what was lost. The Serampore ‘trio’ would go on to publish 38 different language translations of the New Testament, as well as many other works.
For Carey and his friends, a horrible fire did not stop them. Nor did countless other losses including loved ones, misunderstandings, crippling of the work by British authorities, sickness, and much more. In fact, at a particularly low point of Carey’s life in Serampore, perhaps after this fire, he was said to declare ‘The future is as bright as the promises of God’. This quote has also been attributed to Adoniram Judson, another Baptist missionary to Burma just a few years after Carey. Judson worked with Carey’s son for some years, and it is quite likely that he picked up this quote to face his own astounding trials and struggles faced pioneering in Burma.
I have gone through my own struggles, as have you. We should never compete or compare sufferings one with another. We receive grace for our own life, not for someone else’s. None of us tolerates a ‘martyr’ well who always reminds us of what they have gone through. But for all of us, no matter our lot in life, the future is either bright or dark. Much of that perspective depends on our attitude about the future. For me, it is not just positive thinking or trying to be happy when I am sad. Usually when I try to be happy I just get sadder.
The future is bright for me because I stand firm on the promises of God. The God I love and trust. Someone said once that there are over 365 distinct promises in the Bible of what God will do. That works out to one promise at least per day, if you look at it that way. How does anyone rise from devastating loss? How do we emerge from covid deaths and sickness of those we love, and still trust and have hope for the future? For me, it is because I look at the future not as being faced alone, but with the rising sun of promise.
During this past year of covid lockdowns, our oldest daughter introduced me to the books and podcast of Pastor Jon Tyson in New York City. I loved his balanced perspectives politically in a year of craziness here in the US, and his wisdom about engaging the world around us wherever we live. A book I would highly recommend to you is titled A Creative Minority. Tyson writes clearly and movingly of the challenges the Church faces in navigating the treacherous waters of the 21st century.
Here are the closing lines of this book: Every day we move towards the places of brokenness-we do this in loving community out of a story of redemption, with a robust ethical vision, counter-cultural practices, under the authority of the Creator, lovingly exerting redemptive influence for His glory. Wherever you live, whatever your work is, I invite you to consider becoming a Creative Minority so you can redemptively influence the world that Jesus so dearly loves.
Today we ‘move towards the places of brokenness’ in our world. Not without hope, but knowing the future is as bright as the promises of God. There is a new world emerging as covid slowly wanes, built on the old but calling us to move in new places and acts of faith and hope.
I long to be part of that ‘redemptive influence for His glory’ in my world, in my relationships.
The future is as bright as the promises of God.