Don’t wait for rock bottom to appreciate what you have now.
According to some popular stats, the leading cause of death among twenty-somethings is stupidity. Insurance companies call it “risky behavior.” Folks in this age group have their health, strength, tight skin, muscle tone that they hardly work for, and high enough metabolism to lose weight if they really want to. It seems the only thing that can vanquish them is their own selves while imitating the stunts they see in episodes of “Jackass.”
Move 40 years above that category (my age group) and the leading cause of death is, basically, everything except stupid behavior. We’ve wised up, but the wisdom of age doesn’t grant much invulnerability.
We catch ourselves missing that earlier time when we routinely skipped yearly doctor checkups, but never missed Cokes and tacos and trips to Cedar Point. The physical gifts of youth were things we largely took for granted, only esteeming them when they were lost and we began to need reading glasses, a regimen of pills every morning, and guaranteed access to bathrooms wherever we went.
I won’t waste my time lecturing the young on how good they have it. But I have something to say to Christians who fail to see what they have while spiritually healthy. Because, if health currently describes you, it is something wonderful. Please don’t see it as an “up,” as though it were only an extra shot of dopamine.
Take a look at Lamentations chapter 4, and you’ll get a taste of God’s vantage point, through the prophet Jeremiah, as he described the people’s previous condition, while healthy, as compared to their subsequent neglected, ruined condition.
1 How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street. 2 The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands!
The people were compared to fine gold and precious stones, metaphors that show up as well while describing Christians in the New Testament. Peter calls the believers “living stones,” (1 Pet. 2:5), and John shows them built up together in the final finished city, New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21–all glorious.
But apparently none of this was a big deal to Israel, and so a distinct downward trend developed among the people into self-centeredness, distraction, idolatry, and syncretism with surrounding nations. As their condition disintegrated, they had hardly been conscious of losing a thing, even as they sank to the level of chamber pots.
“Those who once feasted on delicacies perish in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace ash heaps” (Lam. 4:5).
Talk about a sense of entitlement. That’s when you’ve got things good and don’t even know it– like food and clothing. Later, Christ said to Israel’s Christian counterparts, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Their indifference toward times of plenty numbed them. In times of spiritual poverty they were vaguely aware that the fire had gone, but unconcerned, and clueless as to how to get it back.
What we currently refer to as “Bible study,” God calls “feasting on royal delicacies,” a heavenly manna of miracle-working, life giving power. What we casually call “Discipleship,” He describes as being “clothed in royal purple,” training for a fabulous future, where we rule and reign together with Christ.
What we treat as commonplace, God sees as otherworldly and glorious. Our continued low valuing of spiritual health will end in ashes and table scraps, just like anything else we take for granted. This is how Lamentations 4 develops, contrasting God’s eternal perspective of the people with where they’ve allowed themselves to sink.
The other day I ran into a dear brother I hadn’t seen in a while, and he shared with me his delight over freshly handling the Word of God, and his committed involvement with a group of serious believers. He said, “I’m in a good place now!” He could just as well have said, “I value where I am. I recognize it’s a blessing from God. This is worth having!”
God would agree.