As I write this tonight, New York is struggling to begin to recover from what is described as its worst storm in living history, my town had a foot of snow dumped on it, wreaking havoc on all the roads, and an earthquake just shook up British Columbia residents with a warning of how much worse it could have been.
In the midst of disaster and difficulty, it can seem as though we are being given another piece of evidence that things are surely getting worse on this planet of ours, and that we have entered into the time of suffering that Scripture identifies as the precursor of the end of the heavens and earth and herald of the return of the Son of Man.
'Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky.'
Perhaps it is true. Perhaps not. In some ways things are better on this planet than they have been for most of human history. A greater portion of people have freedom to choose, longer life expectancy, access to education and health care. A smaller portion of the population are slaves or starving or dying of disease too young.
That is not to say that the suffering in the world is inconsequential, but rather that the efforts of many good people have accomplished good, that the influence of Christianity on the world has had a civilizing effect.
Throughout history there have always been those who point to the natural disasters and evils of their time as evidence of how little time we have left before our King returns in glory.
It is good to be reminded of the scriptural truth that points to the shortness of our life, and the judgment and glory that is to come. The risk, of course, is to fixate on the end, and thus miss out on living.
In the midst of foretelling of the end of all things, the prophet Daniel brings God's word: "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever."
That is the best of life - to grow in wisdom and holiness; to be an example of courage and love pointing to God's way; to seek out the lonely, the broken-hearted and the prisoners and lead them to the freedom of righteousness.
That's pretty down-to-earth living. It is helping, and listening, and weeping and loving; it is struggling for truth and choosing, day after day, to try to do it better.
Jesus tells us that at the end of the suffering, it will be like the fig tree that becomes tender and puts out its leaves. We will see that summer is near. The return of the Son of Man is like the coming of summer. The winter will be over, the time of mourning past.
But now there is work to do, love to give, wisdom and holiness and righteousness to desire.
Let us keep our hearts and minds fixed on those goals and Jesus, our comfort and our strength.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)