I have recently added American Theologian and Trappist Monk Thomas Merton’s, Thoughts in Solitude, to my morning readings. Thomas Merton, has been influential in my spiritual growth and his works continue to guide and lead people all over the world. It has been over 50 years since his death and his words are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them.
Earlier this week, I was reading through Thoughts in Solitude and came across a passage that reflected on the insecurities of this world and the risks we face when we decide to have the courage to follow Christ, instead of focus on our own desires and the desires of this world. The passage states:
“… sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and the risk all that we can see and taste and feel. But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than the transient world.”
He then goes on and references 1 Corinthians 7:31, “Those who use the world should be like people who aren’t preoccupied with it, because this world in its present form is passing away.” (Common English Bible) Depending on your translation, this passage will read differently and in some cases the verse is not a complete sentence. Either way, we can reflect upon the message Paul was attempting to communicate to the people of Corinth. He is not saying that the creation of God is passing away, but that the patterns, social norms, culture, institutions have no permanence. They are continually evolving. Those of you who are students of history can see this observation.
The world in which the Corinthians were living in was changing all around them. The institutions were changing, the culture was changing, how they lived day-to-day was changing, and the same can be said for what is happening around us. Institutions and societal patterns are always changing, but recently the change has accelerated dramatically during the past several weeks and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Do we approach this with fear, trepidation, doubts and despair? That would be the natural tendency, but that is not the approach that Paul would teach to the people that he ministered to. It is also not the approach I would recommend. As people who believe in God whose nature is unchanging and is bound in love, we have something to hold onto, we have a firm foundation on which to stand, so that when it feels like the transient things we hold onto are slipping away, we know that God is here, with us.
As Thomas Merton wrote, the risk is worth it. The risk is worth holding tightly to God and holding loosely the things we thought were important, but in light of our current situation seem so unimportant and unneeded. I encourage you to not walk in despair and anguish, but to walk in hope, courage and in the faith that can only be provided by the only thing that is not slipping away, God.