The disappointment at seeing one's work destroyed, trampled upon, or unraveled is something every individual - no matter what his or her culture, age, or situation may be - has probably felt. And it can be especially hard when the work reversed or damaged affects not only oneself, but the well-being of a whole nation or even all of humanity.
One such accomplishment is that of Kenyan Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo, profiled in today's paper as the first in a three-part "Africa's Peace Seekers" series. After eight years of persistence, the general succeeded in bringing peace to Sudan's 21-year civil war.
There was much jubilation and reconciliation in January, when the peace agreement was signed. But many fear that the death last month of a key signatory to the deal, the charismatic rebel leader John Garang, has dealt a blow to Sudan's "fragile" peace that the country - still struggling with the conflict in Darfur - may not be able to surmount. However, the same spiritual reserves that enabled General Sumbeiywo to bring the factions together can sustain and protect that hard-won compact.
The fear that peace between peoples or nations is fragile seems to be but one of countless riffs on the pervasive and persistent belief that good is susceptible to evil's destruction, and that often the magnitude of that destruction is in proportion to the good accomplished.
So what's the solution? To submit to the conclusion that good probably will never triumph over evil except in fairy tales? To learn to cope as best we can with disappointment and failure?
Certainly there's something to be said for remaining hopeful in the face of such obstacles. But the real and lasting solution comes from dismantling the erroneous premise that good will forever be at the mercy of evil, and that progress will forever be in danger of being reversed.
So in Sudan's case, we have to examine whether this peace is really fragile. One dictionary describes "fragile" as "such delicacy of structure as to be easily broken." Well, what is the structure of peace? When you get right down to it, peace is a recognition of a state of harmony, and a willingness to abide in that harmony.
Where does that recognition and willingness come from? The Bible offers numerous examples of individuals - some of whom had previously exhibited violent tendencies, such as Esau and Saul - who yielded to the love of God, impelling them to reach out to their fellow man, to forgive and embrace him or her.
Every individual today is governed by that same divine, eternal Love, which is universal and unchanging. And the nature of everyone's oneness with Love in 2005 is just as indestructible and incorruptible as it was in biblical times; just as intact in Sudan as in South Dakota or Singapore or Siberia.
So if our relation to God - the Supreme Being who impels and governs all true thought and action - cannot be shattered, trampled, or abandoned, then neither can our recognition of God's qualities, including peace, falter or be jeopardized.
Ultimately, it's not politicians, rebel leaders, or even peacemakers who make or break peace. God's peace is established for all eternity, and there is no power to resist, deny, or obscure that great fact.
Thou wilt keep him
in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee.