The End of All Things
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4.7,8).
Maybe you’re like me and cringe whenever you hear someone mention the end of the world or read about it in scripture. People have been talking about the end of the world since the time of Jesus and earlier. Every year some nut will predict the exact date the world will end; and every year we pass the date without the prediction coming true. We know the end will come but those who are so fascinated with how it will happen and when it will occur seem only frantic and self-serving. It’s like they’re trying to stir the world into some sort of panic so that people will join up with their little club.
Last week the verses in 1 Peter spoke to me in a different way. For some reason I heard them apply, not to the end of the world, but to the end of struggle. As I look back I can see that all the things, little and large, that I have struggled with have been temporary. The things I have wished I didn’t have to deal with were somehow resolved and I was able to move on. Instead of reading the end of all things as words of panic, I heard them as words of peace. That which presents a struggle for me in this very hour will end. Pain is temporary. I will learn from my struggle. God will bring about resolution. Things may not turn out just as I want them to but goodness will emerge. Not only will I survive this struggle, I will be made the better for it. The end of all things is at hand. Yes, thankfully that is true. All that threatens me will lose its power over me.
When I am in the midst of struggle, fear and anxiety are usually my first reaction. Some might say that if I had more faith that wouldn’t happen but I honestly think fear and anxiety are the path to faith. The fear and anxiety take me out to the edges of faith where I can see that I am involved with something I cannot solve myself. Then, with that reminder, I can return to the center of faith where I ask for God’s help and receive it. If I never feared anything, I really wouldn’t know faith. Fear deepens our faith and plays an important role in our spiritual growth. Daily I am afraid of something and daily those fears ease away. Each little fear, every little struggle, takes me closer to the warm center of God’s love.
When I have that sort of perspective, I am so much more compassionate and patient with others. When I am stuck in the fear and anxiety, my thoughts toward others are harsh. They represent the struggle inside me and I react against that, as if thinking that if they were different I would feel better. But when I am more confidently grounded in the perspective that my struggles are being worked out in goodness, other people don’t threaten me so much. It’s okay if they’re not where I think they should be. I can be self-controlled, sober-minded, and loving toward them because I’m being more that way in my prayers. Love, in that way, indeed covers a multitude of sins, my own and those of others.
What if you really knew that whatever struggle you are dealing with right now is going to be resolved in such a way that you, and the whole world, will be the better for it? You might just be more grateful, more trusting, less anxious and fearful, more generous.
And perhaps that is what Peter is saying about the end of all things. All things are temporary, even the planet we live on and the culture we live in. I don’t want to lose the things I love. But I will. And even that will be for my own good and for the good of all creation. Learning to live each day as if it is our last is a lofty goal. But, as I learn the temporary and vital nature of struggle, deeper wisdom is formed, and I come closer to knowing that even death yields to new life. I don’t need to cling. I can live and love.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.