ARE OPPRESSION, DARKNESS AND DOOM LIKE CLOUDS OVER YOUR HEAD?
By Rev. Ernest O'Neill
It does seem as if the world is getting to be a heavier place. It's as if society is beginning to come apart at more than the edges. Probably more and more of us are wondering whether we'll see the turn of the century or not. Then of course there's the other side of you that thinks, "Oh, of course, we'll see two or three more centuries without any trouble." Then, that kind of thing happens on TV that some of us saw where the state official in Pennsylvania called a press conference and stood behind the podium. He had been indicted for fraud and was convicted. He said, "If this offends anybody, will you please leave." Then he pulled a gun out of an orange paper bag, put it into his mouth and killed himself, right there in front of the television cameras.
It makes you wonder what kind of a world we are living in. Something inside you says, "Well, it was always pretty bad, it's not any worse. There are just more of us." Then another incident happens and you hear of a friend that commits suicide. Then you hear of another family that is broken up and it presses in upon you that this is a different kind of world that we're living in from certainly the one that we lived in before 1960.
I don't know how you all are individually, but I honestly do think that more of us seem to be bending under burdens than bent under burdens before. It seemed even in the depression days, there wasn't the oppression that there seems to be in these days. There are many of us here probably who have even contemplated suicide and that's unthinkable in a group like ourselves. We are the kind of people that shouldn't for a moment dream of that. Yet, probably a number of you have thought of it at sometime or another. There are more and more of us who waken up in the morning with an incomprehensible sense of oppression or darkness or doom and we really don't know where it comes from but it's there. It does seem that there is a heaviness in society that was not there before.
There seems in many of our large cities now, to be an increasing sense of heaviness. There certainly isn't the lightness in life that there was. I remember when we first came to the United States; it seemed a wonderfully happy place.
We couldn't believe that everybody seemed to be happy. Everybody seemed to be smiling compared with Britain and Europe. It does seem to have changed over this past quarter of the century and there does seem to be more and more of us experiencing a heaviness and an anxiety. Now, in the midst of all this, God's word is dead straight and clear. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I will say, Rejoice."
Now that is a command from God. I don't know of any other way to cut through that thick cloud of darkness that comes upon you. I don't know of any other way to do it that is as powerful and effective as looking to that Word of God and seeing that that is a direct command to you. God has told us, "Rejoice!" In the middle of whatever difficulty you are, His word to you is, "Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice." It would be important for you to see, it's not a recommendation from God. It's not a suggestion that he makes for improving your mental health. It's not an idea he has that will enable you to live a fuller or more complete or more satisfying life. It's not.
It's a command to you and to me in the same way that the command is "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness." God commands us to rejoice, to rejoice in the Lord. If you say to me, "Rejoice in my circumstances?" No. He doesn't mention your circumstances. In fact, in other parts of His word, He tells you not to look on the outward appearance of things.
So, when you go to sleep at night and there begins to crowd in upon you, all the images of what has happened during the day and all the images of what you think will happen tomorrow, what God is saying is, you'll never rejoice in those things, don't look on the outward things. Those are things that are passing. They'll be dead and gone in a week's time. But rejoice in Me. Look up and see I am your God. I am your Father.
I am going to be here when your job has long passed away, when your company has long disappeared, when your body has been eaten by the worms. I will be here and I will be the same to you as I am today. I love you with all my heart. You're MY dear child. I am your Father. Look at the lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they reap, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now you're the same. I am going to give you what I have given the lilies of the field, except I am going to give you more of it because you're a living image of Myself.