James Russel Lowell (1819-1891). Lines are from one of his most famous poems,
James Russel Lowell (1819-1891). Lines are from one of his most famous poems, "The Present Crisis," written in 1844.

I’d venture a guess that most readers of this beacon of truth know at least some of the words to James Lowell’s (1819-1891) great 1844 poem—a 90 line masterpiece titled, The Present Crisis”.  It was first published in 1845 by The Boston Currier, written  as a protest against the impending war with Mexico and as a condemnation of the existing evil institution of slavery, which had been incorporated into the new Republic of Texas in 1836.  In 1896, Garrett Horder took Lowell’s epic poem and condensed it into the shorter but more familiar hymn—“Once To Every Man and Nation”-- that most Protestant Christians have always known.  Both versions contain inspiring, beautiful, and quite troubling ideas  which have “pin pricked” my thoughts for decades.  To a certain extent, Lowell’s words still stand as a “two edged sword” ready to condemn those of us alive today with their thrust into our complacency, as lines #26 through #30 eloquently proclaim: 

“Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,

Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our Land?  Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ‘tis Truth alone is strong, And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.”

Have “beautiful, tall angels” been shielding America from all wrong – all evil?  Some good people over the ages have contended that this was so, but as we look at our America of today, with contention, division, violence, unconcern, deliberately induced lack of knowledge, the purposeful “revision” of history, political turmoil, recrimination and confusion becoming more common, we must question whether or not our “protective angels” have abandoned our troubled country.  More and more, it appears to me that  God has cut America “adrift” from His Will, and that we are now sailing rudderless into a sea of afflictions which threaten to sink our “Ship of State” as it runs aground on the shoals of sin and founders in the dark deceptions of deliberate disobedience to the historic blueprint  that our Creator gave to mankind long ago – His Holy and Inspired Word; or as Lowell put it in line #45:  “They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”  Indeed they –nay WE – do!

DOES GOD CARE ABOUT MANKIND?

Christians and patriots of today, and even those long gone, have asked the troubling question:  “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”  Or, to expand the question:  “Why does God let terrible things happen to ‘good’ countries?”  So then, let’s plunge right in and ask directly:  WHY does a loving God, which Scripture tells us He is, allow all of this violence, all of this evil?  Why does He allow these things to happen to His children here on Earth if He truly loves us, as His Word assures us He does, and as faithful Christians and burning martyrs have always believed? 

Those questions are perhaps the most difficult to answer in the context of our Christian beliefs -- in our “walk” with our Creator.  As Bible believing Christians (if we are such), we believe that our Creator --  our Heavenly Father -- is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotentWe believe He is infinite throughout His creation, what we call “The Universe”.  As Christians, in order to try to answer the above question, we must believe that.  Since we, as mere humans (but created in His image), aren’t any of those things it’s almost beyond our ability to understand all of the ways of our Creator. 

Recall the Book of Job, when the Creator allowed Satan to do all of those terrible things to persecute and harass faithful Job in order to “test” his faith – (except he was forbidden to kill Job).  What was Job’s reaction to all of the misfortunes that fell upon his head?  Did he not say:

“Though He slay me, yet will I TRUST in Him. …” (Job. 13:15)?  Why, do you suppose, did Job respond that way to his misfortunes?  Could it have been that even though he didn’t, at that time, understand why God had allowed Satan to do what he did, Job never forgot that God was forever good, so he never stopped trusting in Him, as difficult as that was at that moment?    Job had the choice to “curse God” and kill himself, but he didn’t.  Instead, he persevered in faith.

SIN IS THE PROBLEM

But again we ask:  Why does God allow bad things to happen to “good”  people?  In our human reasoning, wouldn’t it make more sense if God made bad things happen to bad people?  Can’t all of us think of some “bad” people upon whom we believe that God should drop His wrath?  Of course we can.  However, the sun shines and the rain fails on the just and the unjust – on the good and the bad.  Perhaps we need to reflect upon what God’s Word tells us about so–called “good people.”    Does His Word not teach us that truly there are no “good people” on Earth, because we’ve all been tainted by that which God hates – SIN – ever since our first parents rebelled against Him in the garden?  Read Romans 3:10-12: “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one.  There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they together have become worthless.  There is no one who does good, not even one.” (NIV).// “As it is written, There is none righteous no not one.  There is none that understandeth: there is none that seeketh God.  They have all gone out of the way: they have been made altogether unprofitable: there is none that doeth good; no not one.” (1599 GENEVA BIBLE).  Looking for a rock to hide under?  I am.

Those words are a clear condemnation of mankind, aren’t they?  ALL of mankind, including all Americans.  God’s Word teaches that every one deserves to be tossed into Hell for eternity.  Can’t we realize that every day we spend alive is only because of God’s  grace and mercy extended to us?  Can’t we admit that even the worst miseries or the worst grief we could ever experience is much more merciful compared to what ALL of us really deserve, which is to  be banished from God for eternity?  But still men ask:  Why does God allow good things to happen to people who hate Him?  Perhaps Romans 5:8 gives us one possible answer:  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us.”  That’s a truly amazing revelation, for despite the evil and sinful natures of mankind, God still loves us.  He loved us enough to come and live as a human being, as a part of a humble family in a humble village in a humble part of the Roman Empire.  He loved us enough to take upon Himself the penalty for our sins.  Instead of constantly asking, “why?”, perhaps we need to remember that our LORD and Savior is always good, always just and loving, and forever merciful.  Perhaps we, in turn, need to love Him more, and ourselves less!  That is difficult for many people, including those who call themselves “Christians”.

When things happen to us that we just can’t understand, instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to always trust Him, just as Job did.  As Proverbs 3:5–6 tells us:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  It’s sad that so many, even those who call themselves “Christians”, don’t act as if they believe those words.  Are you guilty of that?  I am!

Mankind’s “choices” between “the darkness and the light” will go on forever, I fear, until the time comes when our Savior returns to set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem.  Let us as His people recall Lowell’s immortal words:  “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right.  And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.”  (Lines #21 - #25).  NOW is America’s “moment to decide”—and NOW is each American’s “moment to decide”.  Will America—will you and I-- choose to enter history as a “goat” or as a “sheep”?  Will we as a nation—and as citizens of that nation-- choose to live in “light” or in “darkness”?   I wonder.  I really do.  Don’t you?

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Mike Scruggs