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It was only a dream. This is how William Shakespeare decided to reconcile the chaos he created in the wonderfully entertaining tale of a different kind of star-crossed lovers in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

In his play, devious fairies deceive and manipulate a cast of would-be spouses, causing confusion and mayhem. The tumult is what makes this a comedy. Just when you think it cannot get any worse, it does. With so much upheaval, the reader wonders how, if ever, restoration of order will occur.

In the end, order does come, but not through careful exposition or reconciliation, but rather through Shakespeare’s pressing a literary reset button—it was all just a dream. The fairy Puck tells us:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this (and all is mended)
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear.

In our day, as we watch our culture disintegrate into financial uncertainty, political turmoil, international danger, and the normal challenges of life, we know that this tumult doesn’t come with a reset button. We may hope and wish that it is all just a dream, but it isn’t, and that kind of hope is always misplaced.

Believers in Christ Jesus, however, need not ever wring our hands and wish to dream away reality. Instead of escaping, we are to engage, not with louder rhetoric but rather with hope rooted in truth.

In the midst of the physical destruction of Jerusalem millennia ago, the author of Lamentations rightly observed with sorrow the overturning of the city of the people of God. Yet, at the core of his somber despair, he remembered what is true, and that ray of sunshine in the darkness made all the difference.

Just before Lamentations gives us the hymn-worthy and life-giving words of the greatness of God’s faithfulness and the constancy of daily grace and mercy from Him (Lam. 3:22–24), the author explains that his hope amid destruction exists because he remembers these things that are true about God: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (v. 21).

God, then, as now, is and was the same (Heb. 13:8). He does not change (James 1:17). We could say something similar about humanity and the culture we inhabit. Without the intersection and intervention of God’s new mercies, both redemptive and restraining, we are desperately sick (Jer. 17:9) and prone to wander and to war. The nations will always rage and plot (Ps. 2). Yet, God still laughs—and we should too.

Belief, trust, and even hope in the unseen dwell at the core of the Christian life.

Into these days, Christians should speak truth. These are days for determining what it means to stand with brothers and sisters in Christ first (Gal. 6:10) and our culture of comforts second. To borrow a thought from Carl F. H. Henry, our consciences should remain uneasy, and not content, as we carry out this confronting work.

Yet, even Henry, seventy years ago in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, called evangelicals to lament the downgrade of society, he thought they should do so with a smile: “The message for a decadent modern civilization must ring with the present tense. We must confront the world now with an ethics to make it tremble, and with a dynamic to give it hope.”

We live in dark and uncertain days. Mr. Shakespeare’s literary reset button does not exist. Yes, the world is wrong side up, and our hearts naturally along with it. But, as we lament these things, we should also call this to mind: God has not changed, and His mercies are still new every morning, even as we await our Blessed Hope, the Lord Jesus, who gave Himself to redeem us (Titus 2:13–14). Believers in Christ uniquely and always have this message to share.

Belief, trust, and even hope in the unseen dwell at the core of the Christian life, as Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” First Corinthians 13:12 adds: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” First John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Even though we cannot now see God, we know He indwells our hearts, and He has given us a fountain of living hope through His Word and Spirit. Within us, He is our “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), and within us resides “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1).

John Bunyan, in his dreamy allegory of the Christian life, The Pilgrim’s Progress, introduces a character named Hopeful to aid Christian on his journey “from this world to that which is to come.” Hopeful proved a worthy and helpful companion to Christian. As they neared the end of the journey and faced crossing a deep river in order to enter the gate to the Celestial City, Christian began to despair, and as they waded in, he began to sink. At that moment, Hopeful provided the encouragement that pulled Christian across the finish line: “Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.”

So, as we find ourselves asking in these days of cultural disintegration, “Is all this a dream?” we need to smile more as we say: “No, it is far worse . . . and better. For there is a Hope that has found the bottom, and He is good.”

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From the November 2019 Issue
Nov 2019 Issue