Thursday, October 23, 2008

Raising Divine Support

I sent this article out to our Christian Associates staff last week. May you be encouraged as well.

Take a deep breath, and as you exhale try to identify the primary emotion in your heart; that predominant feeling that dwells – and indwells – everything else you touch today. It could be a sense of peace, calm, confidence, or courage. However, in light of the economic tensions afoot in the world, that primary emotion may surface as fear, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, or even border on that dangerous place of despair.

How you respond to this current distress, emotionally and behaviorally, may be an indicator of your locus of trust, namely, where, or in whom, you place your trust. David, in the midst of tremendous stress and danger, cried out to God with some sentiments worth considering in light of our economic times. In Psalm 20, his cry sounded like this:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

Note the kind of “support raising” David encourages! And then look at what he says later in the Psalm:

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Now, imagine David taking that long, diagnostic breath. What primary emotion do you think he would identify in his heart? The danger was evident. The distress was real. And so was the locus of David’s trust in the midst of it all. David put his finger on the cultural trust-point of his day, identifying the chariots and horses that symbolized success, power, prosperity, and financial independence. These possessions provided a person in David’s context with a measure of peace, security, and safety. But they were a false sense of security at best.

David knew where to turn in the midst of his trouble, and where to place his trust. It was not in his support systems, or a donor base, or a missionary account balance. His trust did not abide within the comfort of what he could purchase as an indicator that all was financially in order. David’s trust landed squarely on the shoulders of his God. Specifically he states, “We trust in the name of the Lord our God.” And His name carries all the weightiness of provision: Father, Master, Lord, Helper, Guardian, and Giver.

Recently our Christian Associates board chairperson, Rita Warren, wrote to a group of friends about gaining proper perspective on the economic crisis. Rita embodied all of that deep sense of trust in the Lord, and rightly discerned where not to place her trust. Here is an excerpt from what she wrote:

If there’s any consolation to be found in the current economic and market crisis – and there’s not many consolations, to be sure – it’s that we are living through an unprecedented time in our history. It’s almost like being back in the late 1920’s and seeing firsthand how the Depression came upon us. Like I said, not much consolation. But I am learning today to keep my eyes open, to listen, to watch, to dig deeper than what is being said in the media about the current dilemma to understand how it happened and to see how it will be handled by the government and by Wall Street and by the man in Iowa who is losing the value of his retirement portfolio and his future along with it.

Of course, it’s all exacerbated by the fact that this is an election year. So blame must be cast elsewhere; no one is willing to say “My party screwed up. Decisions were made 20 or even 30 years ago that are unraveling things now.” Instead, the Republicans blame the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi blames everyone who isn’t her, and no one moves forward because everyone is stuck in their own ego and justifications… It is a study of human nature at its biblical worst.

St. Augustine wrote, in “The City of God,”: “…but the very administration of justice becomes a perverse business in which ignorance seeking to check vice commits new injustice.” I see this happening in the economy, in an attempt to solve the problem being buried deeper and deeper into the mess, and the feeling of having no control of my financial situation or my destiny is a bit overwhelming. I’m sure many of you are feeling the same kinds of emotions. Where will it end? I don’t know.

As I write this, the market is up in its first half hour of operation after a 777 point decline yesterday. At least for this minute, a sigh of relief is being heard all over the world. But of course it could turn south at any moment, plummeting once again into triple digit losses in free fall. And that’s what makes it both exciting and frightening: the volatility, the unpredictable quality of it all.

So I guess the lesson has to be: God is in control. Not me. Not you. Not even Nancy Pelosi or George Bush or Barack Obama. Or the Democrats or the Republicans. God knows where this is going, and He knows how to manage it.

So, ask yourself an important question about your financial situation, your support base, and the balances in your accounts: “Where, or in whom, have I placed my trust?” Now is not the time to blame, or to blast off into the realm of self-sufficiency. Now is the time to breathe. Breathe in the calming aroma of the Lord’s name. Inhale His Presence and Provision. Take in His Strength and Support. And as you exhale, sense the calmness and peace that only He can bring to your heart.

A financial crisis? Certainly. A crisis of trust? Not necessarily.

Keep breathing.

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