Friday, February 26, 2010

Even if we lose everything

It hit me afresh last night. I noticed that I was a couple of items short for a crock pot recipe that I wanted to do today. So I drove to Wal-Mart at 8:00 p.m. and found a parking lot that was jaw-droppingly empty. Inside there were virtually no customers in sight. I did not expect the place to be booming at 8:00 on a Thursday night, but you would have thought it was 3 in the morning. It was truly surreal.

I continue to hear story after story from business owners whose business is way off. I continue to notice the unprecedented length of the foreclosure listings in the local paper. Our food pantry continues to run out of food hours sooner than it used to in the monthly distributions.

The economy continues to be really, really bad in these parts.

The conventional wisdom is that a resort community like this one is the first to go into a recession and the last to come out of it. Much of our economy is dependent on people taking vacations, buying beach houses and retirees adding a deck or a sun room to their place. When people are worried about the future they don't spend much if any money on such things. We've been feeling the pinch in a serious way for several years now.

The empty parking lot and vacant aisles at Wal-Mart last night made me think of Habakkuk 3:17-19a:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the
vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though
there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice
in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my
strength ... (TNIV)

In the agrarian culture in which these words were written they depicted a situation of losing everything, economically speaking. It would be sort of like someone saying today:

Though my bank account and my wallet are empty, though my
cupboards are bare and I can't buy any food, though the bank repossesses my car and forecloses on my house, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength.

Can we join Habakkuk in such a statement of faith? I do not mean for a moment to diminish the very real pain that many in this area are experiencing in these days. But it is precisely because of such pain that it is a good time to ask ourselves, is the Lord truly our strength? If so, then is it possible for us to be joyful even in these days?

While he was in chains, Paul wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).

These are hard times in these parts and there is much heartache associated with them. And it is in these times that we must draw on the deep resources of our faith for strength. Through the mysterious wonder of our connection with Christ the Bible indicates that we can be joyful in our Savior even if we lose everything.

Do we believe this?

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