Monday, August 20, 2012

Disillusionment: Part One

[This article is the first in a series of postings on the subject of "Dealing with Disillusionment." -Billy Long

The Narrow Perspective
To have an accurate understanding of truth as God sees it, we must look beyond ourselves and our moment. We must see God’s purpose beyond our own comfort and pleasure. Disillusionment comes from a narrow and self-centered perspective, from making judgments based on ones limited "now" experience and current moment rather than faith in God and his power to fulfill His will and plan. Sometimes He gives us immediate victory and keeps us from harm and trouble, but other times He may allow us to suffer persecution, adversity, and hardship. Our circumstances may change, but God and His plan remain fixed and inexorably moving forward.

Mark Twain’s Mistake
Palestine, before the renewal of Jewish settlement during the late nineteenth-century, was virtually laid waste and its population in acute decline. Mark Twain visited the Holy Land during that period and seeing its desolation and the absence of the Jewish state, proclaimed, “See, this proves the Bible is just another book”. But had he lived until 1948 and beyond, he would have seen the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel and the reappearance of the “land of milk and honey” with the desert blooming. He would have realized what a tragic mistake he made by judging the bible based on his own limited and short moment in time.

We make the same mistake in our own lives. We become discouraged and disillusioned when we draw conclusions based on our own personal and immediate experience without considering God's overall long-term plan and His sovereign power to fulfill it. There are many periods in history when God’s people might have given up had they based their hope in what they saw and experienced at their given moment. We must never assume God has or will fail. Time and patience will always prove God to be true, faithful, and well able to accomplish His purpose.

Examples in Biblical History
As we survey the history of God's people in the Bible we have the advantage of having the whole story before us. But if we could set ourselves down anywhere into that history, we might experience any number of places where we would be tempted to be overwhelmed with despair and disillusionment. Here are a few examples.

The bondage in Egypt
You might have been disillusioned had you lived among the suffering Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the 400 years of bondage. You would have been tempted to think God had forgotten you and the whole nation. Living in what seems to be interminable grief and waiting can very easily produce a very negative and wrong theology unless the heart is fixed in God—no matter what.

Time of the Judges
You might have been disillusioned if you had lived in Israel during the time of the Judges. After having seen the glorious conquests, order, relative purity, and strength under Joshua, you would now have witnessed a nation of confusion, perversions, and subjugation that occurred on a regular basis throughout that period of Israel’s history. Were it not for the recurring emergence of Holy Spirit anointed judges, you might have been tempted to think God had forsaken the nation.

The Divided Kingdom after Solomon’s Glory
You might have been disillusioned had you lived through Solomon's glorious reign when Israel was at its height of peace, security, power, wealth, reputation, and prestige, and then later to see the kingdom divided into two third-rate nations fighting each other and harassed by their neighbors.

The Captivity
You might have been disillusioned had you lived during the revivals of Hezekiah and Josiah which tantalized hopes of strength and stability, only to see the nation at Josiah's death come briefly under Egyptian domination, then under Babylonian bondage, then on to captivity.

The Return
You might have been disillusioned had you been among those who witnessed Israel’s deliverance from captivity, expecting her to rise to power as God’s people, only to see her rise to a very disappointing stature compared to her former glory and then continue in subjugation to Greek and Roman domination during the 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments.

Jerusalem’s Fall
You might have been disillusioned had you known the bustle of Jerusalem and the grandeur of its temple when Jesus walked its streets, and yet within a couple generations witness its complete destruction. How disheartening it must have been that within a hundred years of Jesus’ first advent the Jews were not even allowed in the city except once a year.

Look at Church History.
The church’s history has often been as discouraging as Israel's history. Consider the dark ages with its corruption, ignorance, and cruelty. Look at our own contemporary examples. Consider the church splits, broken relationships, moral failures in leadership, foolish behavior, embarrassing antics, and other discouraging situations that have been on display to us and the world.

Our Response
The Bible makes it clear that in spite of Israel’s failures and Satan’s attempts to destroy them or cause them to stumble, God was able to preserve the nation of Israel and in the fullness of time bring forth Jesus Christ our Lord to bring redemption to mankind. Our Sovereign God has and is administrating history and the future to the fulfillment of His plan. His dominion is forever and His kingdom stands strong, inexorably moving toward the consummation of His eternal purpose. Israel’s “ups and downs” and “in and outs” never hindered the plan or kingdom of God. The same fact holds true for the church, for me, and for you.

If we stand faithful to God’s word and ways, and persevere with patient endurance in faith and hope, we will ultimately see the rewards that come in God’s time. Our experiences may seem inconsistent with what we expected and may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, from wonderful to painful, from clear insight to the perplexity of looking through the glass dimly. But in all these we must stand in faith and know that God is God, that He loves us and has a plan for us and for the world, and that His kingdom purpose will be fulfilled. The land may be parched “today” as Mark Twain saw it, but “tomorrow” it will be a fruitful and fertile land of milk and honey overflowing with the bounty of God’s kingdom. And those who say “today” that God has failed will “tomorrow” look back and see how foolish they were to doubt the Almighty and Wonderful God our Heavenly Father.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Psalm 42: 5


Anonymous said...

Billy, I'm reading this from northern Russia (just south of the Artic Circle) but on a river now headed toward Moscow. I liked your blog. The two biggest sins in the Bible (if you simply read from Gen. to Rev. are oppressing the poor--you really don't want to do that--and self-reliance--the stuff that disillusionment is made of.... Thanks for your insights. By the way, Mark Twain was wrong on a number of scores. Palestine was not nearly as desolate as he imagined (read Chacour's "Blood Brothers" and weep for the Palestinians). Bob

Michael said...

Billy thanks for sharing this. Below are some random thoughts, which probably only connect in my head and probably do not connect to well on paper.

One of the great truths of scripture that the early church clung to was the hope of the resurrection of the dead. They saw Jesus's resurrection and the down payment of the HS in their lives as an active assurance that what God had promised would happen. Suffering in this life (similar to Jesus) was a sign that life was waiting just around the corner, even when death gave is best shot. The resurrection also served as a metaphor of the life they now lived (unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit) and reminded them they were constantly having to adjust their lives to a higher order.

Disillusionment is one of two small of a focus, two low of an expectation. We have not lifted up our heads high enough (Ps 24) to see the king of glory. Old Testament prophecy, beside calling Israel to account for their sin (which BTW idolatry was the main sin), was constantly calling us to look up and beyond the moment to see the eternal purposes of God.

All of the "isms" this world has seen, with all of its glaring failures is reminding us that we are building on the wrong foundations. Their truths do not fit into the world that God created.

Disillusionment with ourselves, others, and God can help us to refocus on that which is eternal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Billy,
Your article is very timely for me right now, especially the definition. It reminds me of Oswald Chambers who said that " discouragement is disillusioned self love".

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Billy. This is manna and quail for those of us, like me, in the midst of the wilderness. God is faithful.
Thank you,

Lo-Lee said...

Beely - As always, your insights and reflections communicate profundity (never to be confused with profanity!) with simplicity. A good word. We contemporary American Christians have no clue what it means to suffer. Some of us would add: "You might get disillusioned when you've seen God act quickly and decisively on your behalf, but then you have to wait in line at McDonald's!"

Billy Long said...

Lowell, your MacDonald's statement is a good description of the contemporary American attitude.