… the more knowledge, the more grief.

… For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;  the more knowledge, the more grief.

So says the writer of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. And that has been my own experience, especially in recent years.

The more we learn of the massive  sufferings in the world, the more we learn about the abuses of our own government, the more we learn about abuses in our business world, the more we learn about the evils of Communism, the more we learn about the evils of Islam  … you get my point. The more knowledge, the more grief. And it wears a person down, it wears me down because I see it and can’t turn my eyes or heart away from it.

But this essay is not about the sin and suffering all around us, but about people, real people, who are pushing back on it. Real people who are trying to make a difference, real people who are making a difference.  Let me tell you of some who I know personally, and some who I know of thanks to the freedom of information we have in this country. Let me also tell you of some of the people whose lives have been changed and even saved by those good people and organizations that have pushed back.

  • My cousin Reidun and her husband Kjell Harjo were missionaries to Japan for over 20 years. This couple gave a good portion of their lives ministering to the Japanese, and though they are no longer in Japan, their colleagues in the ministry are there today, helping in physical and spiritual ways  those people devastated by the recent Tsunami.
  • The two sons of a cousin in Norway who are ministering in Cambodia and Thailand.  The young man in Cambodia is facilitating young girls escaping from the sexual slavery prevalent in the streets there, providing shelter and safety for these young girls.
  • My good friend Terry Wilcox, the grandfather of my three grandchildren, is the Director of the Bridgeport CT  Rescue Mission. The mission provides food, shelter, warm clothes and a substance abuse program for many in a very poor area in Connecticut. All from funds and goods donated by concerned citizens including  many of the 1%( including the CEO of a major US corporation).
    Here is a snapshot of the missions work:
  • Jan – December 2011
    – Nights of Shelter: 40,150
    – Meals for guests and working poor: 572,361
    – Mobile Kitchen Meals: 37,650
    – New Life Discipleship Graduates (Substance abuse rehabilitation program): 14

  • My good friend Jerry Beall is Director of the Sons of Thunder farm mission in Southern Zambia. Diana and I have visited the farm now for three years and have developed friendships among the villagers of the farm.   This year we heard stories from some of our friends of hardships and heartaches in earlier days. We heard stories of having to walk for two to three hours to get clean drinking water, whereas now each village has a deep well providing clean and safe water. We heard stories of people saved from the grave because of the medical ministry of the farm. We’ve seen crop yields increase well beyond subsistence and starvation levels to where a surplus is sold in the market place.
    Pastor Beall is, and always has been, a man of modest means, but had a vision and a call from God to push back and help some strangers in Africa. His ministry, backed by others of modest means, is in the eighteenth year of service to those people of southern Zambia.
    When we go there we are met with warm smiles, a handshake and often a hug; even if it’s been only an hour since last seeing a friend. In all we have 289 friends in 58 families in 9 Villages; I would call that a huge blessing. 
  • Patrick Cairns is a South African we met at Sons of Thunder. He is involved with an organization called Farming God’s Way whose mission is to teach African farmers to farm in productive ways, so as to lift themselves out of poverty. We’ve seen the results of this teaching and training in Zambia, and have seen side by side the difference between farming God’s way and the more haphazard methods so common in Africa.

That’s just some of the people I know personally, and the impact they are having on a troubled world. Now let’s look at some others  a bit more removed:

  • I met 18 year old Daniel, an Irish lad by way of Uganda just this past week at “Occupy New Haven”. I wrote of him in a previous essay, and here I want to speculate on his parents. I don’t know them, I don’t even know their names, but I gathered from talking with Daniel that they are Christians and moved their young family from Ireland to Uganda in order to push back and help in an area of great need.  I gathered from Daniel that in spite of some serious setbacks in Uganda his parents are launching out in some sort of farming venture in nearby Southern Sudan, an area under severe Islamic persecution and war. I hope I can  meet up with Daniel again and continue our friendship; we parted from “Occupy” with a hug.
  • Then this morning I see this video about Uganda, maybe you’ve seen it; about a monster bad guy who has been kidnaping children for 26 years and turning them into his own private army and forcing them to commit all manner of atrocities. The video is produced by a young American who promised a young Ugandan boy he would do something about this great evil; again, someone who is pushing back. You can see the video here.
  • Or how about this one about The Man Who Stayed to help the Sudanese and get their story out.
  • Then we have an incredible story of a young man from Sudan who we had the privilege of hearing speak at his graduation ceremony from the University of San Diego.  You can read his story here, and also my reaction at the time. And by the way, in this same essay you will read of our friends Woody and Sally Held and how they ministered as faculty at West Point.

So you see, the needs are many, locally and world wide. And yes, … The more knowledge, the more grief.  But I would just encourage you to step out and help in whatever way you can; be it small or large, be it local or on the other side of the world.

Don Johnson – March 2012


One response to “… the more knowledge, the more grief.

  1. From my friend Ron:

    Some good commentary to add to your grief. But lest you fall into total despair I give you this favorite verse of mine.
    ICR 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God . For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness .

    saying, Lo, I am come to a great estate, I have gotten more wisdom than all of they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yes, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is [frustrating or] vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow (Ecc 1:16-18).
    Now, it is very interesting to me today as we study the evolutionary processes of the philosophical systems of man, a history of philosophy is an interesting course to take, because as you follow the history of philosophy and see the development of the philosophical thought, we come finally to this present state of the philosophical thought expressed in existentialism. That there is no universal base of good or evil. Every man must experience truth for himself, but there is no universal truth. The philosophers have concluded with all of their study that in reality is only despair. And reality will lead you to despair. Thus, the philosophers, being brought to despair by their philosophy, declare that it is necessary for each man to take his own leap of faith into unreality in order to escape the despair that only exists in reality.
    So you have to take a leap of faith hoping to have some kind of an experience that there is no way of rationalizing or explaining. That’s why TM is so popular today. It’s the leap of faith into a non-reasoned religious experience. That’s why your eastern religions are so popular today and gaining popularity, because they are a leap of faith into non-reason religious experience which philosophy has taught us is necessary because with much knowledge is much sorrow. They’ve come to the same conclusion that Solomon came to years ago. Years ago before the whole history of philosophy ever began, Solomon had gone through the whole system of thought that has brought philosophy through its whole history to this final conclusion that Solomon reached thousands, three thousand years ago: that in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
    Now as kids we used to understand a certain aspect of the futility of education. We used to write in our textbooks, “The more you study, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So what’s the use of studying?” But Solomon said, “Hey, with much understanding, increasing your knowledge is only going to increase your sorrow.”

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