Jump Start # 2733
Ecclesiastes 9:4 “For whoever is joined to all the living, there is hope; for better a live dog than a dead lion.”
One of the things that has come out of this pandemic is a plethora of studies. Some are medical, trying to figure out who and why some get the virus and others don’t. Others are focused on stopping and preventing the spread of the virus. Studies are taking place about the impact the virus has had on education, families and those who are alone. A study out of Japan revealed that more people have died in that country by suicide than by the virus. That is alarming, sad and something to put some thought to.
A couple of years ago I wrote a Jump Start about suicide (# 2116, written June 6, 2018). Prolonged depression, no end in sight, loneliness, fear, little faith, no hope, and no anchor in your life will lead a person to believe that they are better off dead than alive. And, this pandemic has created an environment for all of those wicked mental thoughts to roll through a person’s mind. Fear. Worry. Depression. Hopelessness. Isolation. No end in sight. Stuck at home. Negative newscasts. And, a person who doesn’t have strong ties to the Lord and His people, will easily be crushed by such internal storms. Jesus warned about this. His sermon on the mount ends with the collapse of a house during a storm. There was nothing to hold that house up. Sure the sunny days were great. The view was awesome. But, when those dark storm clouds rolled in and wouldn’t go away, that house built on the sand fell apart. And, this is what the studies out of Japan are showing.
Our verse today is built around two contrasts. First there is the contrast between animals, a lion and a dog. Dogs are cute. Dogs are pets. Dogs are obedient. But a dog is no match against a lion. A dog wouldn’t stand a chance against the lion. The lion is the king of the jungle.
The other contrast in this passage is living verse dead. The dog is alive. The lion is dead. A dead lion is not to be feared. A dead lion cannot hurt you. A dead lion can become a rug on the floor or stuffed and mounted on a wall. That little dog that wouldn’t stand a chance against a lion is now in a better position because he is alive and the lion is dead. As long as there is life there is hope. There is potential and opportunity. Once death comes, the door is shut and it cannot be opened. Solomon is not talking about the rules of nature. He’s using dogs, lions, life and death as a lesson for us. Life may not be much at the moment. We may be on the last rung of the corporate ladder. Yet, if we are alive, there is hope and there is opportunity. Death closes all doors.
Lives that are built around this world and only this world do not fair well in disasters, storms and a crisis. When things do not go well and things actually become worse rather than better, some have nothing and so giving up becomes their hopeless choice. They become like that dead lion.
Now, some thoughts for us:
First, don’t believe for a second that suicide cannot happen among God’s people. It has and it does. It was the sad choice of one of the apostles. This tells us that shepherds must be especially watchful of those whose faith is not as strong as it ought to be. There are those who are barely engaged. There are those who have only a big toe in the water of faith. It won’t take much wind to blow them over. During this pandemic, a few phone calls, texts and special studies are necessary to shore up those that are not that strong. It is those upon the sand that are likely to make wrong choices and give up easily. A common mistake that some congregations make is to assume that everyone is at the same place spiritually. That is not true. It is never true. The larger the congregation the more attention that needs to be given to those who are young in faith, struggling, and those who are weak.
Second, preachers of God’s word must focus upon faith building lessons. During storms in which the nation and the world is shaken, is not the time for detailed textual studies that march chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible. We need attention to storms. We need to remember that God is upon the throne. We need to drive out worry and fear. We need lessons about hope, trust and our duties as God expects of us. It amazes me that some in the midst of a storm, act as if nothing is going on. Denial of what people are facing and experiencing doesn’t help things get better. Anchors are what we need. Deep faith is what we need.
Third, we are surrounded with folks who live with very little hope. They work among us. They are in our neighborhoods. Some are even within our families. When the clouds cover the sunshine of life, you begin to hear the despair and fear in their voices. You need to be that rock for others. You need to demonstrate hope as Peter talked about (1 Peter 3:15). This is a time to bring people to the Lord. This is the time to share a passage with others. Stay off the stage of complaining, pointing fingers and negative talk. There is enough of that, too much. Being that ray of sunshine that comes from a faith in the Lord is what people need to see. Hope. Compassion. Help. Answers. That’s what people need. That’s the very thing that you can deliver.
Fourth, there will be some who just can’t take it and they will choose to end their lives. The pain will be enormous to those who are left behind. They will be left with more questions than answers. They will left trying to understand why. This is not the time for our probing questions. This is not a time for any “I told you so” conversations. It’s a time for compassion, love and tears. A broken heart needs help and you can do that. It is a time to listen more than you talk. It is a time to show that you care.
I saw a article that stated more people are actually injured after a storm than are during the storm. Once the storm passes, people let down their guard and are not as careful as they ought to be. They step on nails, touch live wires, and are hurt by unstable structures that fall. And, once the pandemic is behind us, we must realize that our work isn’t over. There may be more casualties that come once we start worshipping together as what happened during the pandemic.
A dog and a lion…life and death. Sure is something to think about. More than that, it sure makes us look out for each other and let others know that we are here to help them.