The last few days have been difficult for me. We’ve barely recovered from the worst of Covid-19, and now nuclear superpowers are on the brink of war. Lest we forget, we’re in the middle of a global financial crisis, and many countries have mounting debts which will take several generations to repay, if at all. Additionally, in Europe, for instance, there is also a fuel crisis with energy costs skyrocketing. There is a climate crisis looming in the background too. Simultaneously, algorithms are making us increasingly distrustful and hateful of each other. As well as these global problems, we also have our own troubles, alongside family and community problems. As I watch my kids buzz around our home with boundless enthusiasm and joy, I can’t help wondering what type of world awaits them in adolescence.
I’m blessed never to have seen war up close. Yet, I’m painfully aware that an increasing number of the world’s population have indelible scars from war. I read a startling comment on social media shortly before writing this blog. A social commentator said that Europe was in the throes of its last hours of peace for a very long time. It’s hard to disregard such a statement as an exaggeration when you consider the arsenals of the protagonists involved and the potential devastation that could ensue. Mutually-assured destruction is a real possibility. There is a lie out there that asserts that the advancement of our civilisation will make life better. We have advanced, especially with new and exciting technologies giving us capabilities we could only dream of a generation ago. Yet, can we say the world is a safer, better place? Is life truly better?
I turned to Matthew 24 as I pondered world events, and Jesus had a very different take on the future. He didn’t prophesy that life would get progressively better with time. On the contrary, He said that as world history hurtles towards the end, there would be wars and rumours of war. There would be earthquakes, famine and a host of calamities across the globe. Spend enough time watching the news, and parts of Matthew 24 will read like a news bulletin. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but there’s no hiding place for any of us. Whether we choose to accept it or not, the world events we are witnessing are likely to have a profound impact on our lives. That’s a sobering thought which can lead to despair because human beings offer little hope of changing the tide. We repeatedly lust after power, wealth, influence and self-preservation at the detriment of our survival.
The litany of calamities and potential disasters unfolding across the world is terrifying. History proves that any faith in human beings to resolve these woes in a peaceful, equitable manner are badly misplaced. I read an article last week titled: “Living with existential dread”. That headline aptly describes what many people are feeling. It’s no hyperbole either when you consider some of the man-made and natural crises the world faces today. It’s hard to avoid anxiety when reality paints a dark picture, but my Bible says: “…therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains are moved into the sea…Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations of the earth” [Psalm 46]. God isn’t panicking over the fate of the world, and He’s calling on us not to either. Faith is for troubling times like these because the question “is God who He says He is?” is inescapable.
Ultimately, we have a decision to make. The 4th and 5th chapters of the book of Revelation provide a glimpse of God’s throne room. He isn’t sitting there stunned by the global events unfolding in the world, wondering how to fix it. He’s in absolute control of the universe [Hebrews 1:2-3]. Scripture says: “…all wisdom and might belong to Him. He changes times and seasons, He removes and installs kings at will…” [Daniel 2:20-21]. It also says: “a king’s heart is like a stream in God’s hand; He turns it wherever He wills” [Proverbs 21:1]. King Nebuchadnezzar found out these truths the hard way [Daniel 4:28-37]. So too will every proud person who neither fears God nor thinks they’re accountable to anyone, especially those who perpetuate injustice, oppression, fear and violence. God is still in charge of world affairs, irrespective of what we see. We can either believe that and find peace or live in dread of calamity. The choice is ours.
Some people can carry on as usual with these existential crises unfolding around them. I’m not one of them. I’ve had to switch off notifications on my phone to manage my sanity. Yet, my mind still drifts to worse case scenarios. While facing reality can be debilitating, my response is also a sign that I need to draw closer to God. His word and character need to become a greater reality than the news and threats of doom. I’m finding that as I meditate on His promises, my anxieties are slowly melting away. I can also bring myself to pray, not as a last resort motivated by fear, but with the understanding that my heavenly Father has promised that not a single hair will fall from my head without His say-so. He has the integrity and the ability to keep that promise.
I’ve been reflecting on a comment I read in a devotional last week. The author wrote: “…remember that true and lasting joy (I would add peace and contentment in there too) isn’t found in the outcomes we’re believing for. No, they are found as we grow in intimacy with the One in whom we believe.” It’s a word in season and a strategy to overcome the fears and anxieties propagated by the existential crises around us.