We need to hear what God is saying to us because we do indeed live in difficult times. The worldwide global economic crisis has cost trillions of dollars in lost wealth. People who only a year ago had reasonable prospects for the future have seen a lifetime of hard work wiped out. And with the loss comes rising uncertainty.
A week ago New York pastor David Wilkerson (author of “The Cross and the Switchblade") issued a message predicting imminent catastrophe for America. He spoke of cities burning because of rioting and looting. This, he said, would be the judgment of God on our nation. I happened to read about his prophecy (if that’s what you want to call it) a day or so after he gave it. But I was struck hard when Peggy Noonan mentioned it in her weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. Under the title There’s No Pill for This Kind of Depression, Noonan begins by noting that the problem is not just the economic crisis. There is, she says, something much deeper.
I asked a friend, a perceptive writer, if he is seeing what I’m seeing. Yes, he said, there is “a pervasive sense of anxiety, as though everyone feels they’re on thin ice.” He wonders if it’s “maybe a sense that we’ve had it too easy in the years since 9/11 and that the bad guys are about to appear on the horizon.” An attorney in a Park Avenue firm said, “Things look like they have changed and may not come back.”
She goes on to wonder about the widespread use of antidepressants after 9/11. Did that somehow contribute to the loss of restraint that helped create the artificial euphoria that led to the irrational greed that fueled the current collapse? Maybe. Who knows? She points to a number of other factors:
Gun sales are up.
People are amassing cash and gold.
People are starting to grow their own food.
In Manhattan, church attendance appears to be up.
Something is happening. Yesterday a friend sent the warning of the Evangelical pastor David Wilkerson, of Times Square Church, that a new catastrophe is imminent. This is causing a small sensation in evangelical circles.
On top of that, people have lost faith in their government. They feel they have been lied to. How else to explain the mess we’re in? The pervasive cynicism about our leaders seems to cross party lines. Noonan spoke to a psychiatrist who analyzed the mood of his patients this way:
People feel “unled, overwhelmed,” the situation “seemingly unsalvageable.” The net result? He thinks what he is seeing, within and without his practice, is a “psychological pandemic of fear” as to the future of things-of our country, and even of mankind.
The column ends with these sobering words:
The moment we are living now is a strange one, a disquieting one, a time that seems full of endings.
Too bad there’s no pill for that.
Well now. What should we say about all this? First, I largely agree with her analysis of the current national mood. It’s hard to be optimistic when your retirement nest egg has suddenly vanished or your job has been downsized out of existence. Second, I have no idea whether David Wilkerson is right or not. If he is, then there are dangerous days ahead. Third, I do believe that times like these often occur at “hinge moments” of history, when God suddenly rearranges all the pieces on the board, so to speak. Perhaps we are “between trapezes,” having had our hands pulled away from the old, reaching out to the new, feeling suspended in space, not knowing if there is a net underneath.
We don’t have a crystal ball to predict what will happen in six weeks, eight months or five years from now. The secret things belong to the Lord our God. And even on a small scale, we can’t predict what will happen when the stock market opens tomorrow morning. Or when or where the next war will break out.
How should we live in times like these?
Our text offers us three answers, each one filled with clear direction for the days to come. We face a strange situation in the world today, a seeming contradiction.
Things are getting worse.
There are great opportunities for the children of God.
Should we be optimists or pessimists?
Should we be somewhere in between?
Here is my answer to those questions.