I am not sure if my frustration is more with myself, the programs, or people in general. The issue is the poverty I see all around. And no, I am not talking about finances.
In our home we are back to watching Heartland reruns (UpTV available every morning) and a new season (or is it?) of Virgin River. While the shows have references to personal finances and occasionally people facing financial crises, by and large the characters live financially secure lives. Yet, at the same time, I see them living in poverty – perhaps even abject poverty!
It is a poverty of faith that I see. Not so much the absence of Jesus in their lives (after all, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5..45), but the absences of their listening, or even turning, to him. They seem to find some type of cleric for weddings, but (except perhaps for a cross in the background – and of this I am not even sure) Jesus does not get mentioned. And funerals, if mentioned at all, are even worse. What a shame. With all the property, prosperity, and people that fill their lives, they choose to live in poverty!
This poverty magnifies their struggles, erodes their relationships, and minimizes their peace and hope. My mind goes to the words of a hymn written over 150 years ago (and more recently brought to the attention of many by Alan Jackson), “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear –
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there. (LSB 770)
I know Heartland and Virgin River are only TV shows, but I believe they reflect the same poverty in which many (most?) people in our nation choose to live. While a regular pattern of listening to Jesus and speaking to him will not eliminate our trials or troubles, it does seriously (and positively) transform our coping skills. It makes a real difference. It also enhances our lives during all of those “in-between” times when life is relatively trouble free … and those times when excitement and joy abound.
Which leads my mind back to reflecting upon my frustration. Why is it so easy to spend hour after hour watching programs I have seen multiple times before, but struggle spending 30 minutes (or less) reading scripture? Why do I so often fail to set aside time on a daily basis for prayer? Why do we choose to live in poverty?
As one reads through the Bible, it is clear that ever since Genesis 3 life on earth is problem-filled (even the lives of faithful believers) – just as super health-conscious people still have health problems and people who live with strict budgets still face financial struggles. As the saying goes, there is no avoiding death or taxes. However, at the same time, healthy habits enhance life over the long term. And one of the healthiest habits found is a regular diet of God’s Word, Sacrament, and prayer.
As I watch Amy’s heart, and then Mel’s, get broken, I long for someone to share with them the peace and hope that only Jesus can bring. And yet, they are only fictional characters. How much more I yearn that more and more real people would realize the poverty in which they live – and receive the riches freely offered by Jesus in his Word.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11.33-36) May we all live in these riches every day of our lives … sharing them with those who are still trapped in their poverty.