11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.
19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Sometimes, it feels like evil is winning.
When we take the time to pay attention to international news and allow ourselves to be inundated with sobering statistics of genocide, war, human trafficking, and poverty. Or when we open our eyes to our own backyard and witness accounts of racial unrest, shooting, rape, and neglected children.
God, where are you now?
While walking the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia after dusk a few years ago, I encountered this overwhelming sense of defeat firsthand. As I watched middle-aged, caucasian men whisk young, Cambodian women down dark alley ways right in front of my eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder, is God really the Victor here?
And I know I’m not the only one to have asked this question.
David questions “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
For all of time, men and women have suffered moments of broaching their breaking point, and are left with only enough breath to utter a feeble “why?”
And for most of those men and women, there is eventually a season where they begin to catch their breath, regain their strength, and press on. What is it that equips humankind to survive these moments of intense oppression? And how to we access that momentum in our place of deepest despair?
What God reminds His people of, through the powerful commission given by Moses before they seize their promised land, is that we are given a choice.
Each and every experience we have as His children presents an opportunity: a fork in the road. Give into despair, resign to your last breath, and choose death,
take another step forward and choose life. Our God is a God of hope (Psalm 65) and as His heirs, we have access to that hope. The key to unlocking this hope, and the subsequent will to keep living, is to make a proactive choice. We are mandated to choose life, choose hope, and to choose to believe that he is indeed Victorious–then, now and forevermore.
Viktor Frankl, a well-known psychiatrist and neurologist who survived three years in Nazi concentration camps, derived a surprising message of hope from his time of extreme suffering during the Holocaust. He concluded that despite losing family, health, and basic human dignity, there is still one thing that will always remain: man’s ability to choose. He stated that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
And for those of us who have tasted and known the hope of Christ, that means we will eternally have the choice to choose to believe in the promises of the God we follow. He has promised us life, a future, and a life one day marked by beauty and the absence of tears.
Join me in choosing, for today, to cling to the hope found in his promises, in the midst of the evil and darkness that is all too familiar in this world.
Then your face will brighten with innocence.
You will be strong and free of fear.
You will forget your misery;
it will be like water flowing away.
Your life will be brighter than the noonday.
Even darkness will be as bright as morning.
Having hope will give you courage.
You will be protected and will rest in safety.
You will lie down unafraid,
and many will look to you for help.