You are sure to have heard of the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ – it was the second most sought after new word in 2016! The Dutch have their own equivalent: gezelligheid, which means ‘cosy and sociable.’ I was certainly both hygge and gezelligheid in my friend’s flat in Haarlem; it was a perfect place to spend time deep in the Lord’s presence and gaining insights for a variety of writing projects, – as well as for venturing out from some exploring.
The fundamental ambiguity of hygge – the flip side of it if you like – is that it risks blurring boundaries and making us “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Tim. 3:4). As such hygge characterises and defines our generation, which has been blessed to know so many decades of peace. Like any blessing that operates as it were independently of God, it inclines people to forget to seek God – in which case both individuals and societies verge swiftly into a self-centred complacency that soon extends to affect every aspect of life.
Sweden, for example, which has carried out extreme defence cuts in recent years, is fast realising its mistake, and is now preparing to send out a leaflet to all its citizens, counselling them what to do in the event of a war with Russia.
But at this time when Russia is again becoming an increasingly huge and menacing military presence, people in the West are busy seeking comfort and ‘special moments,’ and paying but scant attention to either spiritual or military realities. It would be a great mistake to assume that Russia has been making such determined efforts to reinvent its armed forces with advanced technology for the past eight years with no purpose and end in mind. Once again, we bring this matter to your attention to make a priority in prayer.
The spiritual side is still more complex and is linked to many other factors. During the seventies the USSR sent a high powered envoy to Sweden, seeking to know how it was that the Swedes, without any deliberate effort on the part of the state, had overseen such a huge drop in church attendance, whereas in the Soviet Union, the church had grown despite significant state persecution.
Analysis revealed the answer. It was the very thing that so many Christians had been involved in working so hard to bring about that was unintentionally holding at bay people’s awareness of their need for a Saviour. In other words, the strong safety net that both the Swedish and Dutch welfare states provide, which care for people from the cradle to the grave, can act as a kind of insurance against seeking a spiritual life.
A parallel that springs to mind in this context is the enormous effort made by Christians through the years to make education available to all in our own country, with a view of making the teaching the Scriptures available to all – and yet now that we are a literate society, it is not spiritual considerations that shape the curriculum.
Do remember the many increasingly nervous nations who are being subjected to regular invasion of their air space, and a whole variety of other military threats and pressures. These include Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Poland. But please pray again this heart felt prayer for the Netherlands. . .