As we fully enter into 2015, it would seem that the human race is in increasingly difficult times. Just a small sampling of recent events making the news here in Canada:
- Murder of two Canadian soldiers on Canadian soil by Islamic terrorists or people greatly influenced by radical Islam. Continued threats by terrorist leaders that more is coming our way.
- Brutal murders in France of cartoonists and shoppers in a Kosher grocery store by Islamic terrorists.
- Free fall of the Canadian dollar (now under $.80 US at this writing) triggered by the rapid decline of the price of oil. The oil industry is already cancelling projects and laying off thousands of workers.
- Conflict in Eastern Europe between Russia and Ukraine and possibly more on the horizon.
- Nations continue to go deeper in debt, mortgaging future generations while the 1% get richer and the gap between them and the average person continues to widen. Greece is once again teetering on defaulting on their debt and have elected a government that appears to be ready to thumb its nose at its creditors. Spain is headed in this direction as well with a new political party with similar bents.
The temptation for us to live in fear seems greater than ever. Should we retrench, stockpile canned goods, buy much gold and silver to protect our finances and count every penny and live frugally? We all feel this. Every day. However, in the face of tough times, what does faith look like? What would God, the Creator of the Universe have us do? To put it simply, it is “Time to plant”.
In the time of the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, times were very difficult for his nation. They were in exile in Babylon. Far from home and in a very dark place. Times were very tough. The temptation to live in fear and go into survival mode must have been a daily challenge. At that pivotal time, Jeremiah sent a letter to the elders of his people with these encouraging words:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:5-7
This is what faith looks like. It is the opposite of the fear-mongering, self-preserving “prophetic” messages often heard today. When times are the toughest, it is time to plant. Invest in our future. Look to improve the life of our families, neighbours and cities. Seek the prosperity of what is around us rather than trying to preserve what we have.
Even in Eden, after the fall when the land became cursed and Adam and Eve faced an uncertain future, full of difficult work and painful child-bearing, the orientation remained forward. The command to go forth and multiply, till the ground and plant was still in effect.
Katherine and I have lived through some difficult times ourselves. In the 1980’s, interest rates were around 20%, people were losing their homes, the Cold War between the USSR (remember them?) and the USA was heightened. Nuclear war was still a strong possibility. At that time, the talk amongst our friends and peer group was “Should we get married, have children, take on a mortgage or hunker down until things get better?” In that decade, we married, had 3 wonderful boys, bought and sold two houses, gave generously to the poor and prospered. We often look on that decade as the financial foundation of the rest of our lives. Some of our peer group did the same and have done well. Others lived in fear and did not.
There may be harder times to come for all of you reading this post and for us as well. It is important to always remember that there are no guarantees. We could lose our jobs and all of our finances tomorrow. Someone could walk into our neighbourhoods or place of work and kill us and our friends and family. A natural disaster could occur and wipe out our cities. While all of these things would be cataclysmic and may be at our door, the most important question is “How then shall we live?”
By all means, be wise. Don’t take on unnecessary or excessive debt. Live within your means in how you spend. Diversify your investments (in money, assets, relationships and development of skills). Bless the land where you live and pray for its peace. Give to the poor (time, money, possessions) but in all things be driven by one common principle – When things are darkest, have faith, be optimistic and be determined that it is “Time to plant.”