Letter from America
Trusting God in a time of uncertainty
It is not the best of times, nor the worst of times. It is a time of uncertainty.
As President elect Barack Obama waits in the wings, the economy, in particular, appears to be on the verge of something akin to the ‘R-word’ (= R***ssion), if not, some fear, actual Depression. It could get worse. It could get better. It could be one thing. It could be another. People talk about it. People wonder. No one knows for sure. It is, in short, a time of uncertainty.
How does the Christian live in such times? For, like anyone else, the Christian is not immune to economic troubles. He or she is as much a part of this world, in that sense, as a non-Christian. Christians still have to pay their bills. They still have to make ends meet. They still need jobs. So a Christian cannot escape difficult times by living in fantasy. Sometimes spiritual ‘experiences’, so-called, can be as much an attempt to forget what is truly difficult as hitting the bottle, or watching TV, or piling up the ice cream. Perhaps healthier! But a Christian must realise that he or she is not immune from these difficulties. Everyone has to face up to their own cheque book.
That some no longer talk of whether America is in a recession, but what to do about it (see for instance even the Reuters feed http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed7/idUSN0549744520081105), means that, in all likelihood, the Christian in America (and no doubt much of the rest of the West) is going to have an opportunity to practise their Christian profession in rather different circumstances than the last few decades. This is important.
Consider, much of our ‘rhetoric’ as Christians has been how to deal with materialism. How not to ‘shop till you drop’. How to realise that life is more than things. No doubt materialism will remain a problem as long as we live, but — at the same time — now we have a situation where there is deep economic uncertainty. People are going out to eat less and buying less not because they realise the shallowness of materialism but because they have less money.
In God we trust
So, again, how does the Christian live in such times? I believe the answer, as in all spiritual battles, is found deep within. We are not to ‘fear what they fear’ but instead ‘set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts’ (1 Peter 3:14-15). We, as Christians, have an opportunity to exercise our fundamental belief that Jesus is both good and in charge of all circumstances. That’s what the phrase ‘set apart Christ as Lord in your heart’ means. It means see him as both holy and good, and determine inside to view life like that.
Once that deep spiritual battle is fought (and won) then we can look at R**ssion or D***ssion with different eyes. We trust God. We trust that he has a plan. We act with faith that God will use this for our good and his glory. And as we do that people will come and ask what is the reason that we have for this hope within us (1 Peter 3.15b). A Christian in time of uncertainty has an opportunity to witness his or her faith in the certain hope of Christ. People will notice that we seem secure even if the world does not. They will notice how we react to being laid off or getting the sack. They will notice how we respond to troubles paying our mortgage. They will want to know how we seem still to put our trust in God. And then we will have the kind of opportunity that only comes in such a time of uncertainty.
So, whatever the economic solutions are to the trials and difficulties in America and the rest of the globe, one thing is certain. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. And as we align ourselves deeply with his eternal purpose of salvation, we find that this time of uncertainty is not so troubling after all.