(This post is part of a synchroblog on “Faith in Times of Trial.” Other participants will be listed below as the links are provided and the list grows.)
If there’s one thing we can be certain about, it’s uncertainty. 🙂 And these days we’re living in seem to be proof.
The economy seems to be on the forefront of everyone’s minds. We hear the news reports about how bad it is, and many have felt the sting of it more tangibly, whether it be in their financial portfolios or their jobs. And people are just as impacted by the fear of what could happen as they are by the pain of what has happened. And that’s just on the economic side of things. Add to that the emotional strain of years of war, numerous natural disasters in the past few years, and apparent huge shifts of power in the political/government arena….let’s just say if we are prone to worry, there is plenty to choose from.
If you are a regular reader here, you have no doubt picked up on an occasional complaint from me about the season of transition I am in personally–being in between seasons. This, for me, is probably the area where I feel the uncertainty most in my life right now–although the upheaval and turbulence on the world stage only aggravate it, if I allow it to. Even so…as a follower of Christ, I take heart that my faith and trust are in Someone greater than any hardship that comes upon the world.
In reality, many of us (especially Americans) have grown up in an era of relative peace and prosperity, where the seasons of global hardship are only the stuff of history books. We who believe on Christ need to realize that at times like this, we actually have the opportunity to live out the faith and trust that we claim to have. Or, to put it more bluntly–it’s easy for us to lean on God when we have an ace in the hole, a “plan B”. When things we’ve taken for granted become more unstable, we may come to realize that we’ve been trusting in the wrong things, and our faith in Christ suddenly becomes more important. And while hard times aren’t a good thing–this may be a very healthy side effect. For many, faith is shifting from an untested philosophical idea to something much more real and tangible.
So from this perspective…here are some things I’m pondering about what our faith should look like in these days, and how we should navigate the waters of uncertainty…
- Fear not; trust God. This might sound trite, and easier said than done; but if our faith in Christ is genuine, we need to recognize that no matter where we live on this planet, we are part of a higher Kingdom–the Kingdom of God. We need to remind ourselves that the kingdom of God is not in a recession; that God was not caught off guard by the economic downturn; and that He is still a Provider, and can feed us with the ravens, if need be. We would do well to realize that the money did not disappear, that it is somewhere; that recessions are ultimately not caused by a lack of money, but by fear; and when we buy into fear, it can either paralyze us or cause us to make our worst decisions. When we obey the Scriptural admonition “Fear not”, and purposely trust God, our minds and hearts are clearer, and we will be more able to receive wisdom and instruction from God, and even creative ideas, to tap into provision, and even thrive in days of famine (see Ps. 37:19). All I’ve said here boils down to this: we need to settle our hearts that God is watching out for us and our interests, and stop worrying about ourselves and our personal situations. As we’ll see momentarily…there are more important things to think about.
- Seek first the kingdom of God. Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 tie into both this point and the previous one–we are not to take thought as to what we will eat, drink, or wear, for God knows we need these things. Instead…seek first the kingdom. When we encounter hardship, our first impulse may be to turn inward, become self-focused and self-absorbed. But this is not how the kingdom “economy” works. The kingdom of God functions through love and giving. We need to resist the urge to be selfish, and not allow hard times to stop us from seeing to the needs of others; we need to keep giving of ourselves, our time, and our resources, even though it might hurt. We need to recognize that not once does Scripture give us permission to use hard times as an excuse to close our hearts or to stop being generous. In fact, the Scripture commends one group of believers who supernaturally gave beyond their ability (see 2 Cor. 8:1-3). I think the point Jesus was making in Matt. 6 was that if we believe God has our back, we can afford to focus on blessing others, showing forth His kingdom. When revealing the kingdom of God on earth becomes our top priority, we will even willingly endure hardship and discomfort for the sake of that higher purpose. When we have this attitude, I believe we tap into something supernatural, something far greater than the hardship that surrounds us.
- Light shines more brightly in the darkness. When, as I said before, our faith makes the transition from an idea to something more real and tangible, something we are living out, even by necessity…it impacts not only us, but those around us, in a greater way. Jesus told us, as His disciples, that we are the light of the world. There is something about dark times that draws the light out of us all the more brightly; and time and space don’t permit me to elaborate, but there is a prophetic theme in the Scriptures about how in the last days God will illuminate (or “glorify”) His people as a beacon to those in darkness. Not intending to sound like a cliche here…but if we can truly trust God and tap into the bigger picture, hard times are an opportunity for us to shine. For the light of God to shine through us.
On that note, let me share one final thought, and this applies not just to people of faith, but to mankind in general…
While times like these can bring out the worst in people…they also bring out the best in people. I think of times like World War II, when brave men and women everywhere volunteered to endure hardship and great risk. It is in times of great challenge that true heroism arises–when something comes forth from within us that we didn’t even know we had. Out of some of the most difficult seasons in our history have come some of the greatest stories in our history.
When times get tough, I believe there is a call that goes deep into the heart of mankind, that calls us to rise up and meet the moment with strength and bravery. For all the depravity that can happen (and it does)…every so often you see someone rise to the occasion and accomplish the amazing. It is in these moments that I see some of the greatest evidence that we really were created in the image of God. No matter how sinful the human race becomes…somehow the imprint is still there.
I say all this because I believe that in the midst of the days of hardship, we have the opportunity to tap into this vein of courage and strength, to find our greatest moments even in the times of greatest trial. For the believers in Christ, I think we have all the more occasion to display the love of Christ before the world, and reveal the Kingdom of God.
This, I believe, is what these days call for.