“The country is going to the dogs”. How many times have we heard ourselves and others say this, in exasperation and sadness that things are not as good as we remember them?
In fact the phrase “going to the dogs” has been in use since the early 1600s, so people have been regretting a downward trajectory for over 400 years; a period during which so many aspects of life in this country - education, healthcare and social security for example – have transformed for the better. But it’s very natural for us to focus on an aspect of life which matters to us (ambulance waiting times, the availability of a bank in our area, cancelled trains) and to picture a high base line in the past for comparison. The result is general a sense of decline across the board and potentially a false memory of a golden era in years gone by. That is not to say that everything is getting better all the time, of course. That is plainly not so. But we do need to watch out for our tendency to fix on temporarily worsening aspects of life and to see them as the whole of life in decline. And we need to have hope.
Christian hope is a complex thing. It’s often thought to settle exclusively on a life in eternity after our earthly lives have ended. That’s part of it, but it’s not the whole picture, because Christian hope is for our earthly lives too. That God’s Kingdom is being instituted on Earth as well as in heaven. That God loves us and can be trusted to keep the promises made to his people. To adapt the words of evangelist Priscilla Shirer:
Give us hope in the midst of hopelessness.
Show us peace in the midst of chaos.
Lead us to a hope even if the world will not be lead to it too.
Enable us to see clearly that all things work together for the good of them that love you and are called according to your purpose.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.