This past weekend, the ladies PGA Championship was contested at a golf course called Aronomink in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. The course is the same one at which the men’s PGA Championship was held back in 1962, which happens to be the year I was born. That year, Gary Player won the tournament. This year, he made an appearance at Aronomink in support of the lady golfers competing for one of the major championships in this strange 2020 season.
2020 is, of course, the designation for perfect vision, which seems out of sync with the times since most of the year has been spent in confusion. Player gave an interview on Saturday in which he was asked about his memories of that 1962 championship. He went on about some of the other tournaments that summer, at which he had performed poorly, saying, “The best thing that can ever happen is to experience adversity.” By that standard, 2020 has been a very good year.
Given the popular tendency, however, to avoid pain and suffering at all cost and to seek an adversity-free life, this viewpoint seems odd. But is it? Should it? The Bible gives striking examples of such a perspective:
Psalm 23:4 mentions the valley of the shadow of death and says, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
And in Philippians 3:7, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ …”
In Luke 6:20-23 we find, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
James 1:2-4 has, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Much of the Bible was written, and certainly passed down and interpreted, in times of deep trouble, e.g. the Babylonian invasion and captivity, or the Jewish war in Roman times. The faith they discovered and expressed in those hard times gives the biblical message about the triumph of God a great deal of credibility, because it is the faith of the tested, the ones who had experienced adversity. Their faith not only survived, but thrived, as I am sure ours will, no matter the outcome of all our present crises. Perhaps our complaints about the present circumstances are too soon.
I was born about a month after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended. People weren’t sure about their future then, many were building bomb shelters in their backyards. I have never been sure if those shelters would have helped save anyone from a nuclear blast. The future is always hard to see. Thus far, thankfully, the shelters have turned out to be unnecessary.
Anyway, I am not unrealistic enough to expect anyone to leap for joy at the prospect of a repeat of 2020 in the coming year, but we can resolve to search for and anticipate the finding of our better selves, finding ourselves mature and complete, not lacking anything, and the learning of valuable lessons that will serve us well in the future, no matter how uncertain it presently seems.
Dr. Mark Allison is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Delaware.