In 1893 Norwegian Expressionist artist Edward Munch painted what has become known as The Scream. it is a painting of a sexless figure in a state of terror surrounding by a sky that is on fire as he/she stands paralyzed on a bridge over a fjord. One day, as he was walking with friends, Munch was in a state of high anxiety as he noticed the sunset was blood red. He said it was as though he could hear and feel the infinite scream passing through nature. The German name for the painting is “Der Schrei Der Natur” – The Scream of Nature. Munch described the moment this way:
“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
Last night I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about the state of the world. I was thinking about how there is this collective high anxiety, a tenseness and nervousness due to the Corona Virus. Everybody seems to be on edge waiting for the next shoe to drop. everybody has an opinion on what we should or shouldn’t do. It seems like if you are conservative about your beliefs about “Social Distancing” then people categorize you as a Liberal. If you are liberal about “Social Distancing” then people categorize you as a Conservative. Everything is upside down and backwards. People are worried about their health, worried about their families worried about their jobs and worried about the economy. Every day the death toll gets higher. There have been almost 150,000 deaths due to the virus worldwide and over 2 million people diagnosed with it. I was thinking about all this when that painting came to mind. I looked up the background and was taken back by the actual title. “The Scream Of Nature.” I thought this perfectly sums up how the world is feeling. High anxiety, closed in, suffocating with fear as if nature itself is in anguish. The Apostle Paul knows about the groaning of nature as it awaits the touch of God when he writes in Romans 8:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
There was another Scripture that came to mind as well. It is one that we came across several times during the Lenten Season and into Easter Season. It is a verse that has always given me great comfort and one that Mark Perkins has been using as part of his signature in his emails. The verse is John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Yes, the world is screaming. It seems scary and people are on the verge of panic. Lives are being lost and there is great sadness and loneliness.
Another picture came to mind. It was the painting of the empty tomb on Resurrection morning.
Because I believe this picture I can believe what Jesus said in John 16:33. In the world we surely do have trouble. But Jesus has overcome the world. He has experienced our pain and knows our deepest needs. He has He has been touched by our infirmities, has been tested and tempted in every way common to us and overcame it and He has tasted death and defeated it.
His Kingdom has begun and one day He will wipe away every tear and there will be no more sorrow, illness or death. As John the Revelator wrote:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”
And on Easter morning that Kingdom began on earth as it is in heaven.
So, which painting do you best relate to? Which paintings message will you allow to have prominence in your life?
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?