The world is officially falling apart. A catastrophic earthquake in Nepal has left over 5,000 dead and untold more without food, water, or a proper bed. The city of Baltimore is being shattered by race riots. The Supreme Court is in the process of deciding whether gay marriage is legal. ISIS is beheading Christians.
It feels like nothing is stable. Like the entire world is shifting, shaking, and on the verge of disintegrating. Like hope and peace and rest are a far off dream. Like Christendom and religious freedom and the world itself are all falling apart at the same time.
The media aren’t helping either. Depending on which channel you watch, you come away either disgusted or depressed. I can only watch the news for about five minutes before I want to curl up in a fetal position and let the world pass me by.
In the midst of this awfulness, it’s helpful to remember two things.
THE WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY
Doesn’t it feel like things just keep getting worse? Ten years ago, gay marriage was barely on the radar. Now it’s the subject that everyone is talking about. Less and less people go to church, churches in New York City are being kicked out of schools, BP pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina ruined New Orleans, Nepal was destroyed by an earthquake, and California is enduring one of the worst droughts in its history.
Everything is falling apart!
But this is nothing new. Things have been falling apart since God cursed creation in Genesis 3. God could have kept the world together, even after Adam and Eve sinned. He could have destroyed Adam and Eve and then started over. But he didn’t. Instead, he allowed and continues to allow all of creation to experience the terrible consequences of sin.
God’s people have always had to live in the midst of a world that is falling to pieces. Noah was rescued as the floodwaters killed everyone around him. Abraham had to rescue Lot from Sodom. Israel was held captive by Egypt for 400 years. The disciples were driven out of Jerusalem by intense persecution. The Hebrew believers were approaching the point of shedding blood for believing in Christ. John wrote the book of Revelation while in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
In Romans 8:22 Paul says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
In Matthew 24:7-8, Jesus says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
The point is, yes things are falling apart, but things have always been falling apart. The wars, riots, earthquakes, famines, floods, and persecution are all “birth pangs”. Don’t panic. Don’t wring your hands in fear. Don’t isolate yourself or go into hibernation mode. Terrible birth pangs mean that something good and glorious is going to be born.
GOD HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN CONTROL
The testimony of God’s word is this: God is in absolute control over all things, and he is using all things for his glorious purposes for his people and for the world. God is bringing all things to his appointed end. There is not a single atom or event that falls outside of his rule and reign.
Yes, everything is falling apart, with thousands upon thousands being killed in natural disasters. Yes, sin is running rampant in the world, with sexual liberty leading the way. Yes, nation is rising against nation, with places like Baltimore and Ferguson being prime examples of this.
But what is it all coming to?
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
The fact that everything is falling apart is meant to remind us that God is bringing everything to his appointed end. Creation is groaning with birth pangs, waiting for the new heavens and new earth to be born. The birth pangs of riots and wars point forward to the glorious birth that is coming.
It is appropriate for us to prayerfully engage with issues like gay marriage and the race riots in Baltimore. It is appropriate for us to support relief work in Nepal and other disaster-stricken areas.
But don’t panic. Don’t let fear be the dominant theme of your day, week, or month. It’s all falling to pieces, but we know what it’s all coming to and we know the One who is orchestrating all events for his glory. Let’s appropriately grieve over the birth pangs without losing sight of the birth that is coming.