1918 had the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed at least 675,000 people in the United States and 50,000,000 worldwide.
1929 birthed the Great Depression, a multi year period of societal upheaval and economic collapse.
1941 ultimately led to our involvement in a world war after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
1963 saw the dramatic assassination of JFK.
1986 put a damper on the excitement of space exploration with the tragedy of the Challenger explosion.
Violent crime rose dramatically from the 60’s to the 90’s, enough that most people no longer left their houses unlocked and were less likely to trust their fellow people.
2001 marked the beginning of a global war on terror with an awful display of evil.
2008 saw the Great Recession, the aftermath of which may be one of the causes of our great political division.
2020 was a train wreck we need not discuss further.
This is by no means an exhaustive list! It covers some major events that affected Americans in the last 100 years, but much more could easily be said about the negatives of our history.
This is important: Immunity was attained after two years of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Lifespans increased by a few years during the Depression and led to a hearty generation of folks who helped to win the Second World War. That war, as horrible as it was, led to many incredible breakthroughs in medical and other sciences, not to mention historically unprecedented economic prosperity. The 1960s at least exposed the ungodly, ugly nature of hatred and racism, leading to some positive changes that were long overdue.
Even in the worst of times, good happens. But even if it doesn’t, hope is invulnerable! For a Christian, these issues are simply the result of a fallen world and they’re temporary. The end of life for us is the beginning! We have one important thing that no crisis can destroy: hope. We are absolutely certain that death will be the moment we get to live in a perfect world with our creator (see also II Peter 3.13ff; Matthew 19.28; Ephesians 1.18ff).
Nothing can or should dampen our faith in God, our hope for a better life, our mission to pull people out of darkness, our attitude, our love for each other, our dedication to spiritual growth, our responsibility to take care of people, our resilience in difficult times, and our critical compulsion to emulate Jesus in every possible way while we still breathe.
On September 16, 1991, the space shuttle Discovery dodged a chunk of a Soviet Cosmos rocket. It came within 10 miles of the van-sized debris. If Discovery had not changed its orbit, it would have been so close a call that it would have been yet another tragedy for our then active space program. Mission commander John Creighton said it was “very simple” to maneuver, but absolutely vital to ensure the crew’s survival.
When I mention “conversion” in a spiritual context, what do you think about? Following his mention of Elijah’s exemplary prayer life, James ends with a big dose of encouragement. James uses the word translated “convert” or “bring back.” It is an active word, meaning we cause one to change his or her belief or course of conduct, with a focus on that one then turning in the right direction. The end result, conversion, is the state of their having done that.
To me, it is a blessing to see somebody back in attendance and being involved after they have been away from the Lord and His church. It would be better for a brother or sister to never fall away, but it is definitely a joy to see one have the determination and courage to come back home.
Doesn’t heaven view it the same way? Jesus says in one of the “lost parables,” “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). In conversion, one is changing what their life is orbiting. It is no longer sin and self, but God. What a blessing to see someone go from a path of destruction to the way of life! May this perspective drive our actions in reaching out to our “erring brethren.”