Years ago, Louis Armstrong recorded a song, called “What a Wonderful World.” Video and lyrics here. It’s a pleasant song, pointing out all the wonderful things to see and hear in the world around us…people sharing greetings, day and night, rainbows, children…but it is also a wistful song. Armstrong sings it as an observer, more than a participant. He sees all the wonder of the world around him, and he sees hope for the future. The flowers and rainbows are there for all to see; but the greetings are not for him; the children are not his and will surpass him in knowledge and opportunity.
I could name a dozen other songs or poems with similarly ambivalent messages; songs about smiling, hiding one’s tears, hoping for tomorrow and happy days returning. Such songs acknowledge that our world is filled with wonder, beauty, and joy; they also acknowledge that sprinkled amid the wonder there is heartache and disappointment.
It is tempting in times of hardship to focus on the negative and miss the wonder that still exists around us. It can also be tempting to resent the joy others experience as they soak in the wonder that seems to taunt us.
Some people ask, “How can you believe in God when you see all the pain and suffering and evil in the world?” And others answer, almost flippantly, “How can you doubt God when you see all the beauty and grandeur in the world?” To someone who is in pain, this is the kind of answer that rubs salt in open wounds. It’s not that the answer lacks logic or merit, but it is devoid of compassion.
The truth is, that even in the midst of extreme suffering, we DO live in a wonderful world. The sun still shines, there are still rainbows, and happy children, and, most of all, HOPE.
The Bible speaks of hope as one of the “remaining” virtues– Faith, Hope, and Charity (or Love). We hear this, and study it, and recite it, but do we really appreciate it for the wonder it is? Hope may fade in the midst of chaos, but it is not easily suppressed or smothered. Hope gives us strength when we are struggling; it gives us a reason to look up from the ashes and see the sun. Hope gives us the motivation to work and build after a disaster; to risk new adventures; to plan for a future.
Our world needs hope–we need encouragement to reach out; to build and rebuild our communities; to look forward with vision, and set goals to reach that vision. And we need hope to turn our eyes to the source of that hope– for we do not hope in vain!
Even in our fallen world, God is wooing us with wonder, beauty, joy, and HOPE. What we will find in the redeemed world is beyond our wildest imagination