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Hope for the Troubled Heart
How You Can Survive Through Even the Toughest Even the Toughest...
By Billy Graham Bantam Books
Copyright © 1993 Billy Graham
All right reserved.
World in Pain
Voices from troubled hearts: "Our home is a war zone! Don't talk to me about international war. I want to know how we can find peace in our family!" ... "I'm a rape victim. How can I ever get over my memories, or my horrible fears?" ... "I've lost my job and may lose my home. Don't tell me about Wall Street blues!" ... "How can I raise decent kids when they're surrounded by bad influences?" ... "I'm more worried about what's polluting the minds of my children. They're the most endangered species!" ... "We have a nice home and cars-you'd think I would be happy. But I feel empty. I'm not sure of my husband anymore and I'm so lonely."
"This is the generation that will pass through the fire. It is the generation ... 'under the gun.' This is the tormented generation. This is the generation destined to live in the midst of crisis, danger, fear, and death. We are like a people under sentence of death, waiting for the date to be set. We sense that something is about to happen. We know that things cannot go on as they are. History has reached an impasse. We are now on a collision course. Something is about to give."
I wrote this in 1965.
At that time few of usthought the world could get much worse and survive. I was wrong. In many ways the world has gotten worse, and we have survived. But we are a world in pain-a world that suffers collectively from the violence of nature and man, and a world that suffers individually from personal heartache.
Because we have instant communication today, our planet has shrunk to the size of a television screen. Although husbands and wives, children and parents have trouble communicating, we can watch a war as it is happening before our eyes. A comfortable room can be turned into a foreign battlefield or a street riot with the push of a button.
Our children have grown and married and we now have (at last count) nineteen grandchildren. I cannot promise them that this present world will get better. With all my heart, I would like to protect them from pain. But what I see is a universal malaise which affects civilization, giving me little hope that man alone can change the course of human events to make a better world.
There have been dazzling achievements in the years since my children were small. Man has landed on the moon, and Patriot missiles have intercepted and destroyed incoming ballistic warheads. From world records in sports to VCRs and microwave ovens, this has been a period of great scientific change.
But how far have we come? Are we better off in the nineties than we were in the sixties? In 1965 I said that most of the current experts, analysts, philosophers, and statesmen agreed that man is sick. Some of them believed we had already passed the point of no return. Has the patient improved or is the diagnosis terminal?
Pain of Wars
We are told by historians that peace has never been achieved at any time in history. Since the early eighteenth century, the world has known only eleven years in which there have been no wars. Even during those eleven years, there may have been small undetected wars in out-of-the-way places in the world.
In 1982, I was invited to address a peace conference in Moscow. After much agony, seeking advice from different people that I trust, but primarily the advice of Scripture, I decided to go. I took a great deal of criticism, but God used it to open many doors in Eastern Europe, which I believe was a contributing factor to the vast changes in the Soviet Union. The speech that I gave there, which was based on the teachings of Scripture concerning peace and war, was quoted over and over throughout the Eastern world.
The United Nations proclaimed 1986 as the International Year of Peace. What happened? The world responded with more than a hundred wars, according to the Center for Defense Information in Washington.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the absence of peace may be the norm, rather than the exception, one newsman said in December 1989, "Peace on earth seems more possible now than at any time since World War II." This was a hopeful note in a war-weary world, but since then we have had the Persian Gulf War and many other little wars.
Augustine, in the fourth century, believed that achievement of an absolute state of peace on earth was impossible and that war would always claim its place. The weight of history favors Augustine's view over that of the optimistic newsman.
Pain of Lawlessness
Violent crime, often linked with the war against drugs, has accelerated. From every city in the world come stories of drug-related shootings, stabbings, and assaults. A doctor in a Detroit hospital said that the saddest casualties are children. "We have a whole generation of human beings within this urban area who could be so productive and helpful to humanity but are being lost. We have kids thirteen and fourteen years old who are as hardened as anyone in a penitentiary. Look into their eyes, and you see these cold blank stares, void of most moral values."
In Los Angeles, police make drug arrests at a rate of over a thousand a week-and that's less than one-fourth of what they think the real story is. "Despite the passage of tough anti-drug laws and police dragnets, street crime, much of it drug-related, continues to surge. The nation's violent-crime rate rose 10 percent in the first six months of 1990. Murders were up 8 percent in the first six months of the year and armed robbery rose 9 percent." An FBI report showed that in the last few years, arrests for drug-abuse violations rose dramatically and dangerously.
I love New York and have many friends there, but the stories from that city are heartbreaking. It is reported as having 500,000 drug abusers, an amount almost equal to the population of Boston. In 1952, the city had 8,757 robberies. In 1989 there were 93,387! U.S. News & World Report stated in 1990, "Twenty-one cabbies were murdered this year, girls were raped and then thrown off rooftops, a boy was tied up and set afire, and four small children were shot to death in drug wars within three weeks."
Lawlessness is not confined to the city streets. Most law-enforcement officers say the most dangerous calls are those related to domestic arguments. Beatings, rapes, and murder are also happening behind the white picket fences of our suburbs and small towns.
Random violence, without any provocation or reason, is everywhere. No one is safe. We are a nation living behind fences and bars-not only in America, but also in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and many other countries.
Pain of Economic Collapse
Fraud is rampant wherever we are. In the financial world, the cheating touches many of our pocketbooks. When a large savings-and-loan institution collapsed, the American taxpayers probably ended up paying some $2 billion in additional taxes.
Real estate values have so many ups and downs that the financial institutions struggle with bad loans. Is there any doubt that we are a nation in debt?
Part of our problem with debt is that we have confused needs with wants. Yesterday's luxuries are today's necessities.
One of Wall Street's most notorious insider traders summed up this materialistic idolatry in a speech to graduate business school students when he claimed, "Greed is good for you." It wasn't so good for this man, who soon found himself the target of federal indictments for alleged wrongdoing.
"Dark Mood," announced a Wall Street Journal headline. The infection spreads, as crisis feeds on itself and fears are expressed for everything from bank failures to global financial panic.
Pain of Family Failure
No subject is closer to my heart than the family. Sometimes I feel that my heart will break when I see the results of divorce, infidelity, and rebellion. The moral foundation of our country is in danger of crumbling as families break up and parents neglect their responsibilities. Isn't it ironic that people cheer and clap for couples who have been married for more than twenty-five years? On a television talk show, I announced that my wife and I have been married for nearly fifty years, and we are more in love than ever. The applause was deafening. People seemed surprised, because it is so unusual.
The results of family disintegration are seen all around us. Runaways. Child abuse. Abortions. It is dirty laundry-once hung in the nation's backyard, but now hung shamelessly in front yards -flaunted in headlines and glamorized on television and in films.
One result of family failure has been the loss of dignity. No better example can be found than in the use of language. It's a four-letter word in movies, on television, in comedy routines, and in real life. Time magazine asks, "Are the '90s destined to be the Filth Decade?"
Most decent people wonder what impact the raw-language culture will have on this first generation to grow up with it. Music and comedy routines flout human decency in such obscene ways that even reading about them makes us sick.
Are we shockproof? Parents may still be capable of openmouthed dismay, but today's youth seem unshockable. This in itself is shocking!
A news commentator said, "Since the traumas of the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam, many Americans have gradually closed off their minds to the nature of atrocity. They cope with the world's horror by numbing themselves to pain. They can shed tears over cute, tender stories of stranded whales or a baby in a well, but all too often everything else-from a politician's promise to the Chernobyl disaster-is so much show biz, ironized with shrugs and sick jokes. Today's children were bred in this atmosphere. With many of their parents past caring, how can the kids not be past shock?"
Pain of a Ravished Earth
The 1990s are appearing to be the decade of environmental concerns. After years of polluting our air and water with little thought about the consequences, many are now trying to be good stewards of the earth that God gave us. Global warming, holes in the ozone layer, tainted water supplies, choking smog layers, and overflowing landfills are just a small part of the concerns.
Over twenty years ago, at a time when environment meant simply the surroundings in which we lived and not an endangered species, Francis Schaeffer wrote in Pollution and the Death of Man: "The simple fact is that if man is not able to solve his ecological problems, then man's resources are going to die.... So the whole problem of ecology is dumped in this generation's lap."
The problem has truly been dumped upon us. We have made some strides toward its solution, but this ravished earth is like the man who smoked all of his life without any consequences, until one day lung cancer was discovered. Our natural resources have been misused for too many generations, and we are paying the price.
Pain of Affluence
Someone has said that Americans have more wealth, more two-car families, more private homes, and write more books on how to be happy than any other country. If we lived in Bangladesh or in the slums of Calcutta, the thought of suffering in the midst of abundance would sound ridiculous. And yet in America, where the standard of living is one of the highest in the world, the very presence of a life of comparative ease causes a spiritual sickness. A letter from one of the workers for Samaritan's Purse, which provides help for hurting people throughout the world and is headed by my son, Franklin, illustrates how affluence can be painful. He wrote:
One day I was in one of the large camps where Indian nationals from Kuwait were being held waiting repatriation. These people had traveled for days across the burning desert in buses. I noticed a lady with her family of small children who was very distressed, and when I went to her I found that she had given birth to a baby three days before being evacuated from Kuwait. The baby was so dirty and smelly. It was great to be able to buy her all that was needed for the baby, as well as helping the mother with some of her urgent medical problems. The mother's gratitude was profound, and on further conversation with her we found that she had once walked with the Lord. The affluence of living in Kuwait had come between her and God, and her love for Him had grown cold. As we shared with her God's willingness to forgive her, she found new fellowship with Him and was rejoicing in His comfort and care as we left her.
Almost the last thing she said to me was, "I just thank God for allowing my family to lose everything in Kuwait so I could find Him again."
My wife was talking with a young Christian who had just arrived in this country from a regime hostile to Christianity. The woman was suffering from culture shock. She told Ruth, "I think it is more difficult to remain a deeply committed Christian in the midst of prosperity than under persecution."
Materialism may do what a foreign invader could never hope to achieve-materialism robs a nation of its spiritual strength.
Seen or Unseen Pain
In every country and city throughout the world there are people who are suffering from personal pain. Some of it is visible, like the legless war veteran-some is intensely private, like the woman who has lived with the memory of childhood rape.
In my years of global travels, I have seen a world in pain. Some people seem to have more of their share than others. Many can't understand why suffering is their lot.
When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described the horrors of torture and death in his book, The Gulag Archipelago, a study of the Soviet network of prisons during the Stalin era, he expressed a universal question for all sufferers-"The most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life's experience can gasp out only: 'Me? What for?'"
Me? What For?
When suffering hits us personally, that is the common cry. Why Me? What's the reason?
For a man without faith in a personal God, reactions to painful situations are as varied as pain itself. In a news release about the deposed Kuwaiti leaders attempting to conduct a government in exile after being ousted from their country by the Iraqi invasion, there was a story of a doctor who had left Kuwait and gone to Egypt. His friend, another Kuwaiti exile, said, "He locked his door and grew his beard, and he did not come out, he just lay on the bed looking at the ceiling. He did not talk to anybody. Probably he saw strange things. When we go back to Kuwait, I think we should bring hundreds of psychiatrists."
The doctor from Kuwait is like many who respond to suffering by retreating into a private world without any solution. Others find bizarre methods of escape. After a serious operation, a Hollywood actress was told by her doctor to meditate with pieces of quartz as a therapy to reduce stress.
Without God's guidance, our response to suffering is a futile attempt to find solutions to conditions that cannot be solved. We are plummeting into a world where, in spite of wonder drugs and medical breakthroughs, suffering will become more intense. For all suffering, we know, is not physical. Today, more than ever, we need to know how to find strength to live life to its fullest.
Mirror of Despair
Personal pain has been with us since God told Eve she would have pain in childbirth. However, in spite of the wars and plagues of the past, there has never been a time when a mirror on the world has reflected so much despair.
In 1965, I wrote that the flames of lawlessness, racial unrest, political dilemma, and immorality were out of control. How can I describe that blaze today? It's like the oil wells burning in Kuwait. "Looks like Hell," one observer said. Compared with the 1990s, the 1960s, for all of their rebellion and turmoil, seem almost quaint and placid.
Nothing seems to satisfy. Not politics, not education, not material goods. Some who refuse to turn their hearts toward God have created the New Age movement, with all of its aberrations. This is actually not new but only the latest attempt by man to place something other than Christ inside himself in a futile attempt to satisfy spiritual longings.
As men and women seek to find independence from God, they have lost a sense of purpose in life. The worth of human personality is often equated with what we do for a living. However, a person's occupation, community standing, or bank account is not what is important in God's eyes.
Excerpted from Hope for the Troubled Heart by Billy Graham Copyright © 1993 by Billy Graham. Excerpted by permission.
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