The World and Everything in It — August 24, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The past term of the U.S. Supreme Court produced more conflict than it resolved in some cases. We’ll talk about which justices hang together as a block and which ones don’t.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.

Also today, the Monday Moneybeat: some signs that business is coming out of its COVID slumber—even as joblessness took a wrong turn. David Bahnsen will break down the numbers for us.

Plus the WORLD History Book. Today—a big step forward for the Windows operating system—as well as a newspaper hoax and the death of a Jewish prophet.

And J.C. Derrick on the stages and ages of life.

REICHARD: It’s Monday, August 24th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Gulf Coast braces for twin hurricanes » The Gulf Coast is bracing for a potentially devastating one-two punch from twin hurricanes. Forecasters expect the first of those storms, Marco, to slam the Louisiana coastline today as a Category 1 hurricane. 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Sunday… 

EDWARDS: The primary threat from these hurricanes—and look, we have to take it all seriously. The wind is certainly a hazard. It can spin off tornadoes. But this is primarily going to be a water event. 

Officials fear major flooding in coastal areas, both because of major rain and storm surge. 

Another potential hurricane, Tropical Storm Laura, is tracking toward the same region of the Gulf Coast. And computer models show Laura could roar ashore less than 48 hours later with winds of more than 110 mph. And the overlapping storms could dump as much as 2 feet of rain in parts of Louisiana.

Laura could still veer west toward the Texas coastline, and in any case, the state is almost certain to get heavy rainfall from the storms. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state disaster on Sunday for 23 Texas counties. 

ABBOTT: These counties include all 22 coastal surge counties as designated by the National Weather Service. In addition to that, it also includes Bexar County, which is included for staging and sheltering. 

Bexar County is home to San Antonio. 

The weather event is historic. Benjamin Schott with the National Weather Service said—quote—“There has never been anything we’ve seen like this before, where you can have possibly two hurricanes hitting within miles of each over a 48-hour period,” 

Calif. fires scorch nearly a million acres with more threatening weather approaching » Meantime, in Northern California, a massive wildfire is now the second-largest blaze in state history. And, combined with hundreds of other fires, the flames have scorched nearly a million acres—that’s an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

And to make matters worse, a weather system is moving in that’s expected to whip up gusty winds and dry lightning. Cal Fire spokesman Brice Bennett…

BENNETT: This is a major concern for us because now we have over 13,000 firefighters out on this line battling these fires in remote areas that, should lightning occur, we have to pull back and retreat to safety.

The largest blaze, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire spread to about 350,000 acres Sunday in five counties in and around California Wine Country. 

The blazes have killed at least five people, torched nearly a thousand buildings, though forests and rural areas have sustained most of the damage.

FDA approves emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients » President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for California on Saturday and at the White House on Sunday, he said he has done the same for Louisiana.

TRUMP: FEMA is mobilized on the ground and is ready to help. They will be in there very quickly. 

Also on Sunday, the president announced what he called a “breakthrough” for COVID-19 treatment. 

He said the FDA has approved emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.

TRUMP: This is a powerful therapy that transfuses very, very strong antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to help treat patients battling a current infection.

But an emergency use authorization is not the same as full FDA approval. And chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care.” At least not yet. She said to expect—quote—“well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”

Republican National Convention begins today » The Republican National Convention kicks off tonight. It will be largely virtual but with some live events in Charlotte, Baltimore, and Washington. 

Tonight’s featured speakers include former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and Donald Trump Jr. But first up will be South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. He’ll take the virtual stage at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told NBC’s Meet the Press to expect an upbeat and optimistic convention. 

MILLER: One of the things you’re going to see this week is a complete change in the perception I believe that the media tries to tell about what a Trump supporter looks like or who a Trump supporter is. 

The four day convention will culminate with President Trump accepting the party’s nomination for a second term on Thursday.

House passes bill to prevent USPS cutbacks ahead of election » Democratic lawmakers want to give the U.S. Postal Service a $25 billion bonus to help it manage mail-in voting in the upcoming general election. But Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, President Trump, and many Republicans in Congress say the agency could manage without the extra cash. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called lawmakers back from their August recess to debate and vote on the bill. It passed 257-to-150, largely down party lines, though 26 Republicans voted for it.

The legislation also would prevent DeJoy from making meaningful changes to the mail system—which he already promised not to do until after the election.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: a breakdown of the last Supreme Court term by the numbers.

Plus, J.C. Derrick on the blessings of today.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: It’s Monday morning and we’re back at it for another week of The World and Everything in It. Today is the 24th of August, 2020. Good morning to you, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Suppose you find yourself in a competitive game of Supreme Court trivia, you will be glad to know this information:

SCOTUSblog has released its annual “stat pack” for the term of the Supreme Court ended this summer.

It’s a compilation of statistics for most anything you might want to number crunch from the past term.

Ready to toss some stats back and forth, Nick?

EICHER: Let’s geek out.

REICHARD: Okay. How about this: which justice asked the first question most often?

EICHER: Well, I’ve listened to a lot of the argument tape and the memory that sticks in my mind is Justice Sonia Sotomayor because her interruptions are so abrupt. So maybe she’s the one who jumps in first. That’s my guess.

REICHARD: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke up first most often. Who’d have thought? 

Try this: which judicial circuit was reversed the most often?

EICHER: Easy. 9th circuit—most liberal. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

REICHARD: Yep. I figured you’d get that one. The Supreme Court accepted 10 cases from that circuit, and only one was not reversed. Whoopsies!

Next: how many split opinions this past term?

EICHER: Split opinions. I don’t even know what that means.

REICHARD: Fourteen. And the average is fifteen over the past several years. 

Ok, next question: which ideological side had victory the most often?

EICHER: Pretty blunt instrument, so I’m going to assume SCOTUSblog is putting Chief Justice John Roberts on the ideological side with Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh as a conservative ideological side?

REICHARD: Yes. And then liberal means Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, plus one conservative.

EICHER: Uh, lemme guess. Conservatives won, 71 percent of the time.

REICHARD: Oh, no fair, you peeked!

EICHER: It’s impossible to know these! Next year, how about I grab the stat pack and quiz you? That seems a little more competitive.

REICHARD: Well, that commits me publicly.

These stats do tell a story—and it takes some analysis—so I called up a law professor who’s gone through the stats and sees a story in them: Rick Garnett—he teaches constitutional law at Notre Dame Law School. He clerked for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and has a special interest in the role of religious belief in politics and society. 

I started by asking Garnett what stats stood out to him this past term?

GARNETT: Well, I think I’ll start with two. So one statistic that is striking is that the court this year decided about as few cases as in any living person’s memory. You know, back as recently as the eighties, the Supreme Court would in a particular term might decide, you know, 120 cases or so. And that number has been declining and certainly declined during the tenure of my former boss, Chief Justice Rehnquist, but that’s continued under Chief Justice Roberts. And last year, and not simply because of the coronavirus issue, the court decided not the fewest cases ever, but really down near the bottom. And that doesn’t mean certainly that they’re being lazy or not doing their job or anything.  But it’s an interesting development that the Supreme Court is in a sense involving itself less in kind of the day to day legal work of other courts. 

And then a second statistic that I think is just quite striking is that you know, Chief Justice John Roberts was in the majority in almost every case. It’s not unusual for a justice to be in the majority most of the time, but this was striking in nearly every single closely decided case. So this is the Roberts court, not simply because he’s the Chief Justice, but because he seems to be quite firmly in control of the court’s direction.

I asked Garnett which justices tended to agree with one another.

GARNETT: Well, it’s not surprising obviously that Justices Alito and Thomas agree very often.  Chief justice Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed very often in both cases, we’re talking over 90%. And then Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, sort of the two most liberal justices, agreed in almost every case as well. 

And it’s important to remember that in most cases at the Supreme Court, the justices all agree with each other, you know, more cases are decided 9-0 than are decided 5-4 and more cases are decided, you know, 7-2 than are decided 5-4 once you start adding those up. So generally speaking people often don’t appreciate this. There’s a fair amount of consensus in the court, but it’s interesting to notice that, you know, when there’s disagreement, you do see these blocks and you do see it a certain kind of philosophical cohesion that connects certain justices, which again, isn’t, isn’t surprising given that they were often justices nominated by presidents with similar philosophies.

Of the 14 split decisions this term, I wondered whether Garnett could draw any conclusions based on those, particularly with regard to cultural or political disputes.

GARNETT: Yeah, although most of the court’s cases are not kind of hot button culture or political questions. Most of them are technical legal questions. We do see it’s just a fact of judicial life that on the cases that seem to have kind of a cultural or a moral or political salience, the four justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents are a fairly reliable block. 

Now there have been some exceptions. Justices Kagan and Breyer in several religious freedom cases have in recent years sided with the five Republican appointees. But it’s true that when you see a justice move to, for lack of a better word, the other side, at least in recent years, it’s more often been that one of the justices who was appointed by a Republican will join the justices who were appointed by a Democrat. And that that’s what happened in a few of the cases that were sort of high profile this year.

I also asked Garnett what cases in particular have great significance from this past term.

GARNETT: Well, a case that certainly caught a lot of people’s attention was a case called Bostock, which involved the interpretation of a federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII. And the question there was whether the word sex, which was in the statute, the statute prohibits discrimination based on sex. And it was enacted in 1964 if I recall. The question was whether that term included discrimination on the basis of sexual and or gender identity. And in that case, two of the Republican appointees, Justices Gorsuch and the chief, they joined the four democratic appointees to say, yes, the term sex in that statute has this broader meaning. And that surprised some observers because Justice Gorsuch in particular who wrote the opinion, hadn’t been expected to reach that outcome, but he read the statute in a particular way and decided that the way the statute was framed, the way the text read, if you looked at it just right, it covered those other forms of discrimination as well. So again, in most of the cases that were 5-4 you saw folks hanging together based on their traditional philosophy. 

So a good example of that, of the hanging together, if you wanted one, there was a very important religious liberty case called Espinoza, out of Montana. And it had to do with funding for children who were attending religious schools. And Montana had decided that it violated the law. It violated Montana law to allow these kids who were receiving scholarships to use them at religious schools. And the Supreme Court held in what could be a very significant decision for the school choice movement that no, Montana’s not allowed to discriminate against kids who use these scholarships at religious schools. And that was a case where again the lines were drawn along the lines of the appointing president’s.

This was an odd term because the court shut down for a time, one justice was in the hospital, and arguments were conducted by phone for the first time ever. I wondered whether Garnett thought those factors affected the opinions, if at all?

GARNETT: You know, in my judgment, and again, it’s just an opinion as a consumer of the court’s work, I don’t think that would have affected the decisions or even the content of the opinions. I mean, you know, based on my experience, when the justices are writing, the work of a Supreme Court justice is actually quite monastic. Each of the justices has his or her own little chambers with a couple of law clerks and they work together pretty closely. But a lot of the work is not in person. A lot of the work is, you know, somebody’s brain in front of a computer screen. And so the COVID wouldn’t have affected that all that much. It did affect the oral arguments quite a bit, but most court observers think that oral arguments actually don’t really affect the outcomes very much. 

I think my impression of the oral arguments was that they were actually made quite a bit better by going by going online because the way Chief Justice Roberts ran them. Every justice got to go in the order of seniority and ask a question or two, and there was not to be any interrupting. And it’s just a fact of life during oral arguments for the last 30 or so years, and it’s been getting worse, particularly in the last, you know, five to 10 I’d say,  a lot of interruptions, both of the lawyers and of each other. And so there was just much less of that this year, the lawyers were permitted to make their arguments, which I’m sure they appreciated. And the justices were allowed to finish their sentences without being interrupted by one of their colleagues, which I imagine everybody appreciated. And then for me,  my wife was also a law professor. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. So I know him reasonably well and I admire him very much. And sometimes there’s this strange idea out there that he doesn’t ask questions because he’s not paying attention or something. The truth is that he doesn’t ask questions because he wants to give the lawyers time to talk. But with this new arrangement, people got to hear Justice Thomas asking questions often for the first time in all the cases. And I think for a lot of us, it was kind of fun to get a window into how he was thinking about the case, because again, he usually doesn’t ask that many.

The other useful aspect of Justice Thomas asking questions early on is he got to set the direction of the rest of the argument. He framed what came next or set up his colleagues for follow up questions that were helpful or enlightening.

Finally, I wondered what Professor Garnett thinks this last term portends for the future, especially in light of expanding Title VII employment protections to LGBT individuals.

GARNETT: Well, there are going to be a lot of controversies and disputes involving the application of those laws to religious believers and religious institutions. 

So questions will come up about whether say a religiously affiliated university is allowed to have different dormitories for its students that are separated on the basis of biological sex or will instead, they’d be required to allow people to choose the dormitory of their preferred gender identity. That’s gonna come up and, and similar things along the lines of sexual orientation, there’ll be issues about, you know, to what extent are religious institutions or religious employers allowed to select their staff on the basis of certain moral commitments, right?

So, we will, as you suggested, have to work out the balance and sometimes the tension and even the conflict between religious liberty in a diverse society and the expanding understanding of what anti-discrimination law means.

That’s Professor Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School. 

And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.

MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: The Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER: Here’s a bit of good news on the supply side of the American economy. 

Even though many states re-imposed COVID restrictions after seeing an increase in coronavirus cases, American factories and service businesses are expanding.

A data point from the economic firm IHS Markit is known as the Purchasing Managers Index, that PMI rose to an 18-month high, meaning manufacturing and services are expanding and no longer contracting.

Though we have to add the caveat that according to a Federal Reserve report, American industrial production year on year is still roughly 8 percent lower today than it was last summer.

Existing home sales spiked way up in July powered by the availability of very low interest mortgages, but so, too, did new claims for unemployment benefits ticking back up above the 1 million mark.

Financial analyst and advisor David Bahnsen is on the line now to talk about these numbers. David, good morning to you.

DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Well, hello. Good to be with you.

EICHER: So the purchasing managers index had a nice rise—nearly to a 55 from just above 50—and the data firm points to that 18-month high. Pretty good sign, wouldn’t you say?

BAHNSEN: Yeah, let me explain a little bit for our listeners what this means: 50 is a baseline. And so they take an index of activity and anything below 50 is reflecting how much things went down from the baseline month-over-month and anything above 50 is how much it went higher. 

So, what it’s not saying is that the total amount of manufacturing activity is X percent higher than it was 18 months ago. It’s simply saying that that movement higher month-over-month is at a high. And so the problem is—that’s a very good thing. The problem is that it’s moving up month-over-month from a very low level from the months of contraction that we had in March and April, etc.

EICHER: So, in other words, it had a lot of room from which to bounce back—but we have to stress it’s better that it did bounce back than that it didn’t.

BAHNSEN: And it bounced back more than we would have expected. But it’s bouncing back from very low levels. And, Nick, you and I have talked about this quite a few weeks now, that’s sort of the trend in any of the economic data that all of it is off of very low levels and all of it is a little bit better than had been expected.

EICHER: OK. And that’s where the Fed industrial production figure I mentioned a moment ago—that overall number—tells us we’re year on year just over 8 percent down.

BAHNSEN: The issue with industrial production when things get better and where things are that are lower is the heavy disproportionate impact on industrial production from the rigs shutting down. So, you can’t shut down 70 percent of your oil rigs in the country and expect that that’s not going to have a big carry-through effect to industrial production. Inversely, though, the industrial production’s going to look pretty good when they re-engage some of those rigs, which it’s already started to do. But industrial production as a broad and democratized indicator of activity is, right now, heavily impacted by the energy sector.

EICHER: So, then when the economy gets going, there’s more demand for fuel, prices go up, it’s more economic to drill, those rigs will come back on, basically.

BAHNSEN: That’s right. And so supply can come down a lot quicker than when demand picks back up, they can’t get it back online. They can’t get supply up as quickly as they can get supply down.

EICHER: Let’s talk about the market for real-estate. I read a report that suggested people are spending so much time in their dwellings that they’re looking to upgrade. If you’re renting an apartment, you want to buy a townhouse. You’re in a condominium, you want a single-family home. You’re looking for more and better space. But 25 percent, I guess, again, a function of how low it was?

BAHNSEN: Yeah, no it’s way higher than people had expected. It’s not a huge surprise because we had been seeing the data already on new mortgage applications. New purchase mortgage apps were already going way higher. And I do think that that’s a big part of it is people relocating. There is this sort of temporary movement from urban to suburban. And then there’s definitely people that wanted to upgrade. But sometimes I am suspicious that it’s not even an upgrade. It’s just sort of a change. Like that people just sort of decide I want something different. I’ve been sheltered in place in my house for four months and now I’ve seen all the things I don’t like about it and I want to go buy a different house so I can find things that I don’t like there. So a grass is greener reality of human nature might be embedded in that data.

EICHER: There we go. Well, last week, we had a bit of a victory lap with jobless claims coming down below a million and then it goes back up: 1.1 million. But continuing claims down to 14.8 million. So that is good. 

But being on the wrong side of the 1 million new claims, what do you make of it?

BAHNSEN: Yeah, well it is a fluctuating number and I think that the continuing claims has now become the much more important number because when we dropped 600,000 from 25 million, the math, it was not nearly as significant. Now, when you’re dropping 600,000 from the 15 million range, it’s a much bigger percentage of people. 

And so it is surprising that we got down to 960,000 on the weekly jobless claims and went back up to 1.1 million, but what we know is that’s not a new 1.4 million net. It’s people that were back on payrolls and then went off. But the total net number is still going lower as far as people needing unemployment. And what it really seems intuitively clear to me is going on is restaurant workers and bar workers that were on unemployment, that got off unemployment, and then went back on unemployment. I think that unfortunately that’s the sector that has gotten tug-of-warred around here a little bit with the openings and closings and re-closings and so forth.

EICHER: Before I let you go, what’s your feel on stocks this week? A little less volatility, but an up week overall.

BAHNSEN: Well, it was actually a very low volatility week and you had pretty low day by day movement and we haven’t had a lot of those weeks. So, as far as 2020 stock market weeks go, this was a pretty low volatility one. And there’s not a lot of catalyst for major movement and then as I’ve said so many times and it continues to be true, COVID is not what is moving the market. The cases are down. Certainly all of the doom and gloom predictions about New York levels of death coming to Florida, Arizona, and Texas turned out not to be true. They did a lot of really good work to manage their hospital capacity. Hospital levels are down by 50 percent. So, I think that overall the market isn’t really looking to the headlines around COVID. It’s going to be an interesting rest of the year and I hate to say it, but I actually think that the politics is now going to be one of the bigger catalysts into market activity.

EICHER: David Bahnsen, financial analyst and advisor. Thank you, David.

BAHNSEN: Well, thanks for having me.

NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, August 24th. Thank you for coming along with us today for The World and Everything in It!  Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next today: the anniversary of a revolutionary computer operating system. Plus, a newspaper hoax that convinces readers of life on the moon.

EICHER: But first, the death of a prophet in Israel. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with August 29th, AD 29. This is the traditional date of the beheading of John the Baptist. 

The Gospel of Mark provides the most detailed account of the event in the scriptures. In chapter 6 the author inserts the beheading narrative after Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus—between the sending out of the 12 disciples and the feeding of the 5,000.

Mark writes: 

MARK 6: “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for Herodias sake, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have your brother’s wife.’”

So Herodias wishes to kill him, but can’t as her husband, Herod Anitpas, fears John and protected him—acknowledging that John is a prophet, holy and just. On top of that, Mark says that Herod enjoys listening to John. 

But on Herod’s birthday, the ruler throws a feast and invites his nobles, officers, and politically connected guests. Mark continues his account: 

MARK 6: “And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said to the damsel, ‘Ask me whatever you wilt, and I will give it thee.’”

Herod swears he’ll give his step-daughter up to half his kingdom. The girl confers with her mother and returns with the demand for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. To save face, the king gives the order and hands the head of the prophet to the girl, who in turn gives it to her mother. 

Mark says that the disciples of John come and take the body for burial, but the final earthly resting place of his head is a matter of great speculation. Many ancient churches and shrines across the Middle East and Europe claim to possess it, or at least parts of it: including supposed locks of his hair, and other relics associated with the beheading. 

Outside the life of Christ, the story of John’s execution is one of the most common New Testament themes in religious art. Over millennia, thousands of pieces of classic and folk art from around the world feature the account. 

Next, August 25th, 1835. The New York Sun publishes a series of articles announcing the discovery of life on the moon. 

NEWSPAPER CLIPPING: We have just learned from an eminent publisher in the city of Edinburgh that Sir John Hershal of the Cape of Good Hope has made some astronomical discoveries of the most wonderful description. 

The first article introduces readers to a supposed scientist working with a new telescope. The periodic updates describe the various animal and plant life forms, along with the bat-like humanoid creatures that live there. 

LETIVIN: We need to take a step back and realize that not everything we encounter is true.

Daniel Letivin is the author of A Field Guide to Lies. Audio here from a 2016 interview with PBS Newshour. He writes about why people willingly believe lies: 

LETIVIN: We don’t want to be gullibly accepting everything as true, but we don’t want to be cynically rejecting everything as false. I mean society functions because we trust one another, I trust that my plumber knows what he’s doing. But we can be skeptical, suitably skeptical… 

Back to the story in 1835, as the articles appear in the newspaper, and seem to be citing reliable sources, many believe the fiction—even in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary. It becomes known as The Great Moon Hoax.


And finally, August 24th, 1995:

COMMERCIAL: You’ve heard about all the fabled wonders of the information superhighway…with Windows 95, it’s easy to get on it. 

Twenty five years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95 in North America. Previous versions of the operating system required short file names, but the update introduced long file names. It also revolutionized the process of adding internal and external peripherals. 

COMMERCIAL: With Windows 95, it’s a matter of plug and play. Start expanding. Start Windows 95.

Today, the Windows user interface is significantly different from Windows 95, but the operating system introduced 25 years ago has two legacies that are still prominently used today: the “start button” and the “taskbar.”

COMMERCIAL: It used to be difficult for personal computers to do more than one thing at a time. [MUSIC] Starting with Windows 95, it’s easy. Start multitasking. Start Windows 95.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Monday, August 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Commentator J.C. Derrick now with some thoughts on contentment.

J.C. DERRICK, COMMENTATOR: I started covering sports for my local paper at age 18, but I didn’t enter college until I was 24. Even with a few years of journalism experience, I knew I had more to learn. And yet, I still saw college mostly as a necessary step to earn a credential. I just needed to hurry up and get on with it. You know, get to real life. 

It was around the start of my junior year that I had an epiphany. This is real life, I realized. Constantly looking forward to post-college life was robbing me of embracing and enjoying what God had put in my path right then.

And it got me thinking. I’d actually done this repeatedly in my life. I perpetually looked past my current stage. 

And maybe you can relate. When you’re in middle school, you can’t wait until you get to high school. Then you can’t wait to get to college. Then you can’t wait to get out of college.  

Then you can’t wait to get that promotion—and get that debt paid off. Can’t wait to get married. Can’t wait to have kids. Can’t wait till the kids are out of diapers. Can’t wait till these kids are through the teenage years. 

Then I’ll be able to relax and enjoy life. 

But it’s all a lie. If you can’t rest in God’s providence and provision now, you won’t be able to later. 

This tendency we have reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 10. The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy. 

It’s not that hope for better days is wrong, but when it veers into discontent—as it often does—that’s when we run into trouble. Life never leaves us short on reasons to complain.

But the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” 

I don’t know if Paul ever experienced a pandemic, but I can’t think of a verse more appropriate for these strange times. Trying to work with three small children at home? Some days I think I’m going crazy. It’s natural for all of us to pray for God’s mercy and look forward to better days. 

But just you wait. On the other side of this pandemic, we’ll all be more aware of its benefits, whether it’s the extra time with family, convenience of remote work, less hectic schedule—or something we don’t even fully see right now. And we will wistfully look back.

See, that’s the thing: discontentment runs both ways. As life progresses, we look back on the good ole’ days—childhood, college, or those carefree single years. Remember when the kids were little? Boy, what I wouldn’t give to go back to that stage. 

The author of Ecclesiastes said for everything there is a season. Each one is valuable. What a shame if we only recognize it in hindsight.

I’m J.C. Derrick.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: A special report on COVID-19 statistics and how to interpret them.

And, the Gulf War—remember that? It’s been 30 years since that time and we’ll talk about it.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind; that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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