Making Sense of the World

Neil Downey
“I refuse to accept that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

How do people interpret life? When our world doesn’t make sense, what gives us clarity? What do we use to understand our circumstances, especially when things get rough?

A few years ago, I discovered a template (conceived by Michael Metzger) that attempts to put into words what seems to be true of us all.

The basic premise is that everyone on the planet shares a kind of behavioral DNA, a pattern for how we view life. We all imagine life the way it ought to be, the way it is, the way it can be and the way it will be. We see this pattern in everyday life and in movies, novels, songs and art. This pattern also is found in Scripture.

We imagine the way life ought to be because of Creation. We were designed for a perfect relationship with God and other people. We recognize the way it is as not quite right because of Corruption. We live in a fallen, broken world.

Our current reality doesn’t line up with God’s original intent. When we think about the way life can be, it’s because of Redemption. Deep down we long for renewal, for freedom.

Through Jesus, God offers a solution for our fallen condition. We dream about the way life will be because of what the Bible calls Restoration. One day, God will restore everything in creation to its original intent. He will make all things new.

So ought, is, can, and will is simply a way of using secular language to talk about Creation, Corruption, Redemption, and Restoration.

A story I share is about my friend Tami Lewis, a 44-year-old mother of five boys, who went to the hospital with a persistent cough. She was diagnosed with cancer in her lungs, liver and colon.

Tami has since passed away. And while it’s difficult to comprehend why this happened, we can take comfort from the fact that she knew Jesus: the Creator, Redeemer and Restorer. One day, He will make all things new.

When thinking about Tami, I am reminded of this template, which God used to help me interpret these awful circumstances:

Tami ought to be at home right now, making lunch for her boys, reading to them, playing with them, cuddling with them. Instead, she was in a hospital bed, her body full of cancer until she left this world. The way it is – reality – is not the way it ought to be.

Now, what can happen? God can or could have healed her. We prayed for her healing and weeped with those who weeped. We provided support and encouragement to her family.

And where does our hope come from? She will and does have a perfect body. There is no more pain, disease or sorrow.

This framework, which is the gospel in its essence, helps us make sense of the world and fosters spiritual conversations and allows us to share the hope in us.

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