New words are cropping up daily. Solastalgia is one of them. It is defined as “…a form of emotional or existential distress caused by environmental change”. When you hear the all-to-frequent references to the global emergency of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and other dire environmental warmings, how do you respond? Some rapidly tire of the constant barrage of warnings and stop listening. Others, however, who take the warnings seriously, may have a deep personal impact on their mental well-being that can eventually result in a loss of hope.

I have spent much of my life working in the environmental arena, both within the Christian community and the secular. I have found a profound difference in their outlooks. Although I am speaking in broad generalities, the secular folk often approach environmental issues as problem solvers. It depends on them! The hope for the future depends on their contribution to solving the problems today. On the extreme, it can be a fatalistic view – either success or the likely extinction of humanity. The only hope rests on their success.

Within the Christian-based community working to care for God’s very good Creation, their outlook rests on a different foundation. They too are highly motivated; they too hear the warnings; they may even have been part of the scientific community that sounded the alarm — but their hope meter is based ultimately on the promises of Scripture. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” These were the words she heard her Lord say. Colossians 1:20 suggests that the ultimate victory has already been won. Yet we still find ourselves living in the now, but not yet. Romans 8:19 describes Creation as “waiting in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…. And in verse 20 “…the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” While the creation groans at the present, 2 Cor 5:18 tells us that we have been reconciled and given the ministry of reconciliation.

Yes, creation is groaning. It is bent and bruised. But we, as God’s children, have been called to be part of its reconciliation – its healing. But the ultimate success does not depend on us alone. We are privileged to participate with our Lord as we do our part. Christ taught us to pray “…Your Kingdom Come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is Christ who is bringing in the Kingdom. We are called to participate, but our hope is not in what we accomplish, but in Christ’s ultimate accomplishment in the completed creation — in the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21-22. Our task today is to prayerfully participate in day-to-day right living in God’s present Kingdom. One day at a time as we tend His garden! If you have more questions, I recommend N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.” It is an important contribution by a highly respected theologian.

Thanks for listening.

— Joe Sheldon

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