Lay the Burden Down

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild was required reading in my high school. It is red in tooth and claw. It reveals London’s burdensome view that this harsh world is all of reality.

The protagonist of the novel is Buck, a dog. He learns by the “law of club and fang” to be an obedient Klondike sled dog. It’s a story of weary labor, deadly retribution, and the struggle to survive. At the end, Buck discovers his owner Thornton and the other dogs dead – killed by indigenous people. He joins a wolf pack living in the wild only to return as the legendary “Ghost Dog” who kills humans.

London’s experiences informed his stories and his worldview. His time in the Klondike damaged his health. As a child he labored 12 to 18 hours a day at a cannery. As a teenager he sailed with a sealing expedition, bludgeoning and skinning seals for days on end. He experienced hunger, homelessness, and a stint in the penitentiary. His mother attempted suicide. His birth father denied him, suggesting any number of other men could be his father.

London’s faith was in Darwin. He declared, “I believe that with my death I am just as much obliterated as the last mosquito you and I squashed.” A few months before he died at age 40 of an overdose, London explained his credo. “I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.” If anything, he lived as though to shorten them. “The ultimate word,” he wrote, “is I Like,” expressed in his wild adventures, riotous living, and substance abuse. Those were his attempts to offload the burden of a pitiless and pointless world.

His is a story of tragedy, not redemption. He missed the evidence all around him of a far greater and more attractive reality – the rest of the story. Even amidst tooth and claw, creation points to something beautiful and sublime. “O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad… animals both small and great. Let the glory of the Lord endure forever. As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord” (Psa. 104).

What is your story? You don’t have to live a burdened life, denying that transcendent, eternal good exists. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

Save the Queen

In 1952, 25-year-old Queen Elizabeth entered Westminster Abbey for her coronation. As she stood by King Edward’s Chair, the Archbishop presented her. “God save Queen Elizabeth!” everyone cried out together.

God certainly gave her a long life. She couldn’t have predicted that her reign would last 70 years and span such disturbing and tumultuous years. Yet she served her people and the world with grace and endurance. Her faith in Jesus inspired her. “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light,” she said recently.

Her 2015 Christmas message came amidst a year of terrorism and migrating refugees. The Chinese communists had made troubling power moves. “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year,” she said, “but the gospel of John contains a verse of great hope: ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ ” The context is that Jesus is God the Son, the Creator in human flesh who offers the gift of eternal life. “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:1-5).  The Queen was offering the Light that overcomes the darkness of evil.

In 2020, the world was responding to the COVID pandemic. In that year’s Christmas message, the Queen mentioned one of Jesus’ parables. “This wonderful story of kindness is still relevant today. Good Samaritans have emerged across society showing care and respect for all…reminding us that each one of us is special and equal in the eyes of God.” By creating us all in His image, God made the Queen and the pauper of equal and high value. “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). He made you as a unique person so He could love you. When you grasp that God made, values, and loves you, it moves you from selfishness toward loving your neighbor.

The Queen’s 1952 coronation service ended with the singing of the anthem, “God Save the Queen.” By all indications, He did. And now, Elizabeth has departed for the land of the living.

Pursuit of God

A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God reveals a pastor’s heart. “I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God,” he writes. I share his purpose here.

So much competes for our time and focus. In this smart phone-social media age, it’s drivel that competes for our clicks. The algorithms know what you pursue by keeping up with your clicks and offering you more of the same. When you take stock, you realize you aren’t pursuing your true longings.

Tozer was speaking to believers who know what matters – a relationship with God through Christ Jesus – but do not act as though it is a lifelong pursuit. “The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless,” he writes. “The man is ‘saved,’ but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God.” God has revealed Himself to be a Person, and you are made in His image. You can learn what He thinks, desires, enjoys, and loves. He communicates with your soul through the avenues of your mind and emotions. He uses Scripture, prayer, and other believers to intensify your desire for Him. Join the pursuit!

Moses asked, “Let me know Your ways that I may know you,” (Exo. 33:13) and that was after he met God on the mountain. David cried out, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psa. 73:25). Paul was blunt. “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). History tells stories of believers who lived lives of joy amidst sacrifice, consequence despite failings, and focus over distraction because they fanned the flames of their desire for God.

Pursuing that desire has a simple result. “The man who has God for his treasure,” Tozer writes, “has all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight…and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever.”

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa. 37:3-4).


Forgiven Debt

Forgiveness is in the news. The president decided that the federal government should forgive $10,000 of student loan balances.

I’m not interested here in the politics of that move. I do note how the level of student loans has changed in my lifetime. I graduated from university with a student loan debt equivalent to 40% of my starting salary. That was serviceable. Some time back, I tuned in to a radio call-in program. A young lady wanted advice on paying her student loans. She had recently graduated in graphic arts and landed a job in her field. Her loan was 400% of her starting salary. She needed help. She could not repay that level of debt.

How would you feel if you incurred a debt you could not pay? That was the tact Jesus took in answering Peter’s question, “How often should I forgive my brother?” True to form, he told a story. A king had a servant who owed more than he could repay in a lifetime. That being the case, the king considered harsh terms against the servant and his family. When the servant pled his case, the king “felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” Jesus’ point was that you have no hope to repay your sin debt to God. So, when you receive His forgiveness by faith, you will know what it means to forgive others when they sin against you (Matt. 18:21-35). No one can offend you more than your sin offends a holy God.

God created each one of us with a sense of right and wrong, a moral law you might say. That is how you incur debt to Him. You are not perfect. “Christianity tells people to repent,” C. S. Lewis writes, “and promises them forgiveness. It has nothing to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.” You must know just how deep in debt you really are before you can appreciate that God’s forgiveness is deeper still.

That young lady I mentioned understood her desperate situation. The radio host offered some predictable suggestions, like look for a better-paying job, move in with her parents, or sell her car. But what if, in the moment that she realized what she had done and expressed deep remorse, the radio host offered to pay her debt in full? He would be committing his own resources to settle a debt he did not owe, on behalf of someone who had a debt she could not pay. That sounds like what Jesus did.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on it” (Eph. 1:7-8).