After the great earthquake in Alaska in 1964 they did one of those sociological surveys.
Tales of valor and bravery were legion. People pulled together in the crisis. There was no looting!
And, said the survey, people turned to God in a dramatic way. Church attendance swelled to record numbers. (Older folks remember the months after Pearl Harbor. Younger ones remember the weeks after 9/11).
But within one year, church attendance had dropped back again.
Adversity does not always turn people to God, any more than a person automatically becomes an Olympic swimmer because he is drowning. And once the storm has passed, once prosperity returns, it is easy to forget the solemn meeting of our soul with God, to relegate His gracious word and will to the sidelines, to “bench” Christ until the next catastrophe.
An essay by Dr. Bob Moorhead entitled “The Paradox Of Our Times” made the rounds years ago. It was often incorrectly attributed and it mutated into various abbreviated versions. But the basic gist of it still strikes a chord:
We spend more, but have less. We buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families. We have more conveniences but less time.
We have more college degrees, but less common sense. We have more knowledge, but less judgment. We have more experts, but fewer solutions. We have more medicine, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We have learned how to make a living, but not a life. We have added years to life, but not life to years.
We talk too much, listen too little, love too seldom, forgive too reluctantly.
We have been to the moon and back, but cannot cross the street to meet our neighbor. We have “conquered” outer space, but not inner space. We have cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We have higher incomes, but lower morals, larger paychecks, but smaller faith. We have more leisure, but less fun, two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses but broken homes.
Jesus told us why this is – this “paradox” – this seeming contradiction: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
St. Paul said, “”The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
There is, as Jesus taught and as the old prayer puts it, a “peace which the world cannot give,” a state of the soul in which things are the way they are really supposed to be between God and us and among each other, a peace even amid the storms that swirl around our heads. The peril is that we go looking in all the wrong places for the peace which only Jesus Christ can give. The Savior has promised to be to us all that we need, saying: “My peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:27 KJV).