Recently one of my very good friends saw me reading something very intensely and asked me what I am reading. When I said that I am reading my Bible, she said very innocently, “Yeah, I have heard that it is a good read.” I could not help but smile at the way she said those words – a very innocent manner.
What she said is so right – reading the Bible does a world of good. But why do I read the Bible? Is it because I am a Christian? Is it because it is the right thing to do? Does my religion demand that I read? Or, probably I am just showing off to everyone else what a good Christian I am? Hey, that is actually a possibility .
While all the above reasons may be true, the one reason I read the Bible is – the same reason why I breathe, why I eat. To live a whole life. Does reading the Bible really make a change in your life? Isn’t it just a waste of time? Isn’t it just a collection of books that has nothing to do with science? Doesn’t it claim that the earth was created only 6000 years ago?
To be honest, I had all these questions. For long time, I never read the Bible. But then one conversation and a book that I read changed my life. Unfortunately today young students neither talk to their elders nor read much. Everything is found on internet. Google and Wikipedia are their sources. While I have nothing against Google and Wikipedia (I use them a lot, to be honest), but reading books, magazines and editorials broaden your horizons. And there is no substitute for experiences. So reading a lot and listening to others will really help you. Now, what are the two things that changed me?
Both actors started their careers around the same time and became superstars of Tamil film industry in 1950s. It is known then and now that when it comes to acting, Sivaji Ganesan is just incomparable. It is said that the great Marlon Brando once said, “He (Sivaji) can act like me, but I can’t act like him.” Even the diehard fans of MGR would accept this. But when we look at the political landscape of Tamilnadu, we see something else.
It has been 14 years since MGR passed away, but still his name has strong political pull in Tamilnadu. He was very successful in his political campaign, started his own party and till he passed away in 1987, he was undefeated. On the other hand, Sivaji had a pathetic political career. He was never able to win elections on his own and when he started his own party after MGR’s death, he was routed out of the political scenario in Tamilnadu.
Once I was talking with my family and found out that they all have utmost respect for Sivaji. While they admire MGR, when they have to choose one of them, they all invariably chose Sivaji. They also told me that whole Tamilnadu would do the same – admire MGR, but the respect Sivaji commanded was unparalleled. So, I asked them then how come MGR was more successful than Sivaji. They explained it by two songs – one from Sivaji’s movie and another from MGR’s movie. Here are the two songs.
To be honest, when I heard that explanation I laughed. I laughed hard. I also thought my family members and an entire generation of Tamil people are crazy. Just plain crazy. Because for a teenage boy, it did not make any sense. This was the explanation they gave.
The above songs were very popular songs. Both have similar themes. In both, the protoganist had lost everything and in both are singing in the same line – Okay, whatever is happening, let it happen. Both songs are fatalistic, what is going to happen is going to happen. But if you watch the videos carefully, you will something. Sivaji’s manner of singing is very realistic and it will make sure that you feel depressed at the end of it, telling us that it is fate that decides everything. If you watch MGR, you will see that he actually starts in a depressed state, but by the time the song ends, he would be jumping like a young boy, with great hopes for the future.
Not just this one song, almost all the movies MGR acted in, had a upbeat theme – good winning over evil, no matter what the odds are. For the record, in all the 300+ movies he acted in, MGR died in only two movies and both of them are historical movies where the protoganist actually died in real life. But Sivaji died in almost all his movies . Though Sivaji’s movies actually reflected what was happening in real life, MGR’s movies had an encouraging feel about it – there is always hope in MGR’s movies. This is the explanation my family gave me and needless to say, I had a hard time believing this. How could just the way you approach your life would affect everyone around you, how could that make you successful or failure?
But then something happened to me. I went into depression. Not just one day depression, slept well and woke up, hey, it’s gone kind of depression. I was depressed for 6 months. Had low self-esteem. Could not talk to anyone. Was pessimistic about everything in life. If someone talked with me for like 10 minutes, they would prefer killing themselves for I gave such an outlook about everything. Everything was doomed to fail. There is no hope in human life. This was what I truly believed.
So, like all the teenage boys in college, I started on the route to self-discovery. Reading quotes from everyone and everything. Philosophy was a big thing for me. God meant everything to me, it could be mother nature, just some energy that caused big bang to happen… everything. That’s when I came across a book. The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
By then, I had already read over 10 self-help books. Believe in you; you can make it happen; if you think you can, then you can; nothing is impossible for human mind; you are who you are – I knew all these by heart by then. Still nothing. So when I picked up this book, I was a skeptic in my heart. But this book had a different approach than the other books I read so far. Dr. Peale talked more about what the Bible says about me. I was stunned to know that there are so many verses in the Bible that spoke positively about me. You may wonder, Patrick, is the Bible really talking about you? Where is your name? Of course, my name is not there. But when I read the psalmist feeling depressed, I saw myself in him. When I saw David forsaken by his own family, I understood his pain. When everything went wrong for Job and he ended up cursing the day of his birth, trust me, that became my prayer for a while – cursing the day I was born.
But soon something else happened in my life. Abraham was tested in his faith, but he emerged victorious. Joseph suffered a lot in his youth, but when he waited patiently for the LORD, he was exalted. David battled with depression, but emerged as one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel. Job lost everything, but received double portions. Jeremiah lamented, but the LORD made him a prophet unto the world. The more I read the Bible, the more I realized that in all my sufferings and failures, I was not alone. There are people who have walked that path before me. And, even in the worst possible scenario, they did not lose their faith. Their eyes were fixed on just one thing – JESUS CHRIST. And there is a Name given to Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation – “His Name is the Word of God” – Rev. 19:13 (NIV).
It was not easy. I battled with low self-esteem and depression for a very long time. But slowly the Word of the LORD liberated me from the chains of depression. From someone who thought everything was doomed to fail, I became a believer. The more I read the Bible, the more I realized how much Jesus has done for me and how much more HE is doing in my life. The more I read the Bible, I ‘tasted and saw how good the LORD is’ (Psa. 34:8). The more I read the Bible, the more I understand what love truly is. The more I meditate on His words, I learn what true humility means. The more time I spend reading the Bible, the more I hear His voice clearly. I am who I am because of His Word. That’s something I am not ashamed to confess. The Bible showed me that when I trust in the LORD with all my heart and humble myself in His presence, then HE will lead in paths of righteousness. In the moments of absolute darkness and loneliness, HE has promised ‘never to leave me nor to forsake me’ (Jos. 1:5, NIV) and so far, He has kept that promise.
There are times when I had left His presence. Times when I had made my bed in hell and still the LORD who loves me so much was there with me to save me. In numerous occassions, the LORD’s words have guided me in the way I should proceed. Yes, the Bible is a very practical guide for living. The more I read the Bible, the more positive my outlook has become. The more I meditate on the Word of God, I receive more grace and become stronger. Because the Word of God lives in me, every day is a happy and joyous day in my life.
Today I see young people seeking comfort in everything, trying to find ways so that they are not hurt. Yes, since their hearts are filled with so much crap, they are unable to feel the pain. But that is not a good thing.
I have seen a young fellow finding great wisdom in the quotes of Hitler. Really? Hitler? The guy who killed millions of innocent people and led the world to destruction? You find wisdom in his quotes…!!! That’s really wrong.
I have seen teenage boys finding courage in the deeds of a dacoit, Veerappan who terrorized three state governments for 20 years. He was a smuggler and a murderer. At age 17, he committed his first murder. He murdered around 170 people, killed more than 200 elephants and smuggled around 10,000 tonnes of sandalwood. And today, the youth find courage in him. Really? A murderer and a smuggler is your hero?
Remember what you fill your heart with is how your life is going to be. So, ask yourself – what is your source of comfort? What is your source of strength this day? Fill your heart with the Word of God and you will see the transformation in you. You will see a positive change in your outlook towards your life and the world. You will see that your presence gives hope to others. You will notice that people around you are going up in their lives, encouraged by your words. For out of the abundance of your heart, your mouth speaks. May your heart be filled abundantly by the gracious Word of our LORD. Amen.
Oh, by the way, the Bible does not tell this earth was created in 6000 years ago. It was a misinterpretaion by Christians who are overzealous in their defence of the Faith that does not need a defense .