Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
You may have heard the recent Gallup report stating that “Americans are Among the Most Stressed People in the World” and “Americas Among Most Negative People on Earth”. https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/gallup-poll-stress-survey/2019/04/25/id/913251/ Although this was not based on an exhaustive poll, for the most part, I agree with it! If the external expressions of anger, impatience, depression, and others are symptoms of a greater problem, stress could be part of it! The pundits’ explanations are different and broad. Some blame the constantly negative media coverage, others on the pervasiveness of social media, still others on the current political atmosphere or social policies. I’m sure that you would have your own theories as well. Lack of time outdoors? Broken marriages and fluid family structures? Less church attendance? Perhaps it’s a combination of them.
In reality, we are living in unprecedented times, with huge declines in poverty, crime, and death due to war. On the other hand, we’ve never been more morally ambivalent, agnostic, and confused, probably due to the promotion of pluralism and moral relativism in schools and around society. I would submit to you, that THIS is a large part of the reason why there is so much negativity and stress. Why else, with so much affluence, economic prosperity, a longer average lifespan and overall improvements, do we find soaring rates of depression, even suicide? Humanity has had darker periods of history of wars, bloodshed, and death, even if this century has given rise to the greatest persecution against Christians.
Abandon the God of the Bible, with His clear revelations through scripture, and you abandon any form of objective purpose, and hope! Society comes one that mirrors the days in the book of Judges, “Everyone did as he saw fit” (or “what was right in his own eyes”)(Judges 17:6, 21:25) Moral relativism! “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” ― G.K. Chesterton . Does this not describe our society today?
There’s another way to look at it: We are relational and spiritual beings, created for relationship with each other and God. We cannot simply replace the real for the artificial, and assume that our bodies and souls will take it! For thousands of years, humanity has believed in deity that had formed us, as well as institutions that have blessed us, such as marriage, family, and religious assemblies. Simply transplanting concepts foreign to human history with the efforts to suppress God and the conscience, has had dire consequences. There are obvious external evidences that digital communication and social media cannot replace the richness and depth of personal relationships, even as I write this “blog”! But more importantly, God Himself has given us everything we need in live as revealed in His Word.
My fear is that the majority of our society will still elect the “easy”, temporal choices over the challenging, yet lasting and infinitely rewarding relationship with God. For this tendency, even in my own life, I go back to the Psalmists, again and again, and meditate upon their focused determination. I find the key to richness of life in the beginning of almost every Psalm, but will just share several here.
Psalm 5:1-3 “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” It begins with the first part of our day, dedicating ourselves to Him and choosing Him first above all external cares and concerns!
Psalm 92:1 (A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day) It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, 2 to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” As this is a “Sabbath” song, I am reminded to put aside the normal, daily routine and “force” myself to rest and rejuvenate, with the recognition that this is all for the specific purpose of putting that focus on God!
Psalm 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Where do we go with our stresses, frustrations and fears? Not AWAY from others, but towards God, AND His people! We gather together as the Church, the body of worshippers, to strengthen, encourage, resource, and corporately praise our God. Not only when times are tough, but as an act of worship, which has the added benefit of preparing our souls for those times!
All that being said…I may be a short-term pessimist, but a long-term optimist! I believe that this world as a whole WILL go from “bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13), while we seek to rescue pockets of people, His “remnant” in every generation, by His direction and Will. At the same time, we look forward to a glorious future, a “blessed hope— the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), where HE will one day restore this negative world into positive perfection! Meanwhile, we are to live out that imminent reality in daily expectation and hope!