This week, Scots throughout the world celebrate their National Poet, Robert Burns. While there may not be Burns Suppers this year, he will still be remembered. That took me to thinking about his poetry and I decided to write this ‘Thought’ around the poem, ‘To a Mouse’. It is, on the surface at least, the report of an incident when Burns turned up the nest of a field mouse with his plough. He addresses the mouse in the poem, apologising for what he has unintentionally done and admitting its sorry state now it has lost its home. At a deeper level, however, the poem is a comment on the condition of the human race. The final verse reads:
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,
I guess an’ fear!
Roughly translated, Burns tells the mouse that, because it lives only in the present, it is more blessed than him, a man, who is aware of past, present and future. Bad things which happened in the past make us fear the future, not least because it is unknown.
This reminded me of what King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11: He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.
Mankind alone of all God’s creatures is aware of eternity, of the fact that the life we live on this earth is only a tiny fraction of our full life. As someone has put it, “there is a God-shaped hole in the human heart”. It is this awareness of more than we can observe with our senses that
often draws people to seek God. It is our mission, as those who know God, to point them in the right direction by our life and words.
For Christians, the certainty that we will live in eternity with God should remove our fear of what lies ahead in this life. It is for this reason also that the apostle Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica:
You do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (1Thessalonians 4:13).
In these days of the pandemic, when the death of hundreds in this country is a daily occurrence, let us hold fast to this truth. Our life is more than what we know at present. Jesus died to give us eternal life, a far better life than we could ever imagine, with no suffering or death. Our future is secure in him and in him alone. We should not look to the future with doubts and fears. Our God is still on the throne! What’s more, he responds to us through prayer. He is always listening and always speaking words of comfort and assurance, if we will only pause to listen.