Six-year-old Noah Ponzer was one of twenty-six people killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. As the grandfather of a five-year-old, I cannot begin to imagine the pain his parents and other families have endured in the years since.
However, conspiracy theories began spreading online almost immediately after the shooting, with some speculating that the tragedy was staged to generate support for gun-control laws. Grieving families became targets. Some were accused of being actors paid to play a role.
Noah’s father, Lenny Ponzer, has tried to stop people from spreading such lies and from harassing him and other grieving families. He received death threats as a result.
In June, Mr. Ponzer won a defamation case against editors of a book that claimed no one died in the Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy and that his son’s death certificate was a fake. This week, a jury awarded him $450,000 in damages from one of the book’s editors.
Why has the youth suicide rate increased 56 percent?
We’ve been discussing this week the power of ideas—whether they are positive or evil—to change the world. John F. Kennedy was right: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
However, to change the world, we must sometimes retreat from the world.
Work predated the Fall and is part of God’s design for us (Genesis 2:15). But overwork is a symptom of a culture that measures us by what we do, how much we do, and how fast we do it.
As with any time we step out of our Creator’s plan for us, the costs outweigh the benefits.
A new study indicates that people who regularly work more than ten hours a day for at least fifty days a year are at a 29 percent greater risk of stroke. The risk rises to 45 percent for those who keep such a schedule for ten years.
The American Institute of Stress notes that 77 percent of us regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Forty-eight percent of us feel our stress has increased over the last five years and say stress has a negative impact on our personal and professional lives.
In related news, the CDC reports that the youth suicide rate increased 56 percent between 2007 and 2017. Experts point to a rise in depression, drug use, stress, and access to firearms. Some studies have linked smartphone use to anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation.
Do you need a “desolate place”?
One solution to our culture’s insistence on overwork is withdrawing regularly from our culture.
Jesus taught his followers, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Our Lord set the example for us: “Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:15–16).
Jesus would begin his day in solitude with his Father: “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). He would pray at night (Matthew 14:23), before meals (John 6:11), and before major decisions (Luke 6:12–13).
During a time of hectic stress, when “many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat,” Jesus told his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
Who “ensured the survival of Western civilization”?
Making time to be alone with God is best not just for us but also for those we seek to influence for God.
One monastic order in the medieval world was called Canons Regular. These monks lived a separated lifestyle devoted to prayer and spiritual disciplines. However, many of them also stayed connected to the communities they served and opened their doors to pilgrims and those in need. They were “in the world but not of the world.”
Such a monastic balance was critical to the future of our society. Fulbright Scholar Emanuel Paparella notes that medieval monks preserved the manuscripts and scholarship of antiquity and promoted learning in agriculture, medicine, metallurgy, and the arts. In short, they “ensured the survival of Western civilization.”
Their example does not require us to withdraw completely from the larger world. Rather, it inspires us to make time for spiritual solitude in the service of our Lord and our culture.
What is your “greater work”?
This weekend, will you make time to “rest a while” with your Lord (Mark 6:31)?
Make an appointment with your Father and let nothing intrude on it. Go to a place where you can be free from distractions. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. Perhaps take a walk in nature, spend time meditating on a passage of Scripture, or worship with a psalm or Christian music. Be with God for no reason except to be with God.
Now make this a regular part of your life. (I urge you to consider First15, the daily devotional resource our ministry offers.) Decide to order your soul around its True North, the hub into which the spokes of your life fit best, the purpose for which you exist (Matthew 22:37).
Oswald Chambers: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God” (his italics).
What is your “greater work” today?
NOTE: I write The Daily Article every weekday because I am convinced that biblical truth always accomplishes God’s purpose (Isaiah 55:11). The Spirit of God uses the word of God to accomplish the will of God in the power of God.
Would you pray about your involvement in reaching more people alongside me with biblical truth by becoming a monthly partner?
As a monthly partner with Denison Forum, we’ll send you complimentary, advance copies of books we publish, an invitation to participate in a private Facebook group, and recommended readings from the Denison Forum Book Club.