[notice]A new, monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]
I’m sure you can relate. There are days when living in South Africa is wonderful. There is, after all, just so much to appreciate about our country – from the beautiful scenery and wonderful weather, to the sports heroes that fill our heart with such pride that sometimes we feel it fit to burst. And then there are days when, if we are honest, it does not feel good or even comfortable to be South African. Days when the conduct of political role players leaves much to be desired; when their justifications and political grandstanding make a mockery of us as the electorate and threaten our fledgling democracy. Days when crime touches us in a very personal way, in both small ways and big, leaving us feeling threatened, often bewildered and, of course, vulnerable – uncertain of the future of our beloved country and even our place in it.
What am I doing here?
I have had a few days like this recently, where again I felt the temptation to give in to fear. To feel sorry for myself. Where my instinctive response was to keep my head down and just go about my own business, leaving others to go about theirs. It is during these times that I often ask myself the question: What am I doing here? And why do I stay?
As South Africans we have great determination, are very resourceful and always seem to make the best of a bad situation. But we constantly walk with a limp. We should be taking our rightful place on the world stage, and be celebrated for our achievements in the business, science, and sporting arenas, but our not insignificant world-class achievements continue to be overshadowed by what can only be described as questionable political decisions and the rampant lawlessness that threatens to overwhelm, in every sector of society — from the highest echelons of power to the streets of our neighbourhood.
For the most part, circumstances seem to be beyond our control, leaving us feeling helpless. But the reality is that though we may feel that we do not have the power to change our situation, we do still have the power to determine our own response to the very circumstances we find ourselves in each day.
How are we to respond?
But how are we to respond? We really have only two options: The first is to act in faith, and the second is to act from a place of fear. We are all familiar with both, and I submit that, on any given day, we swing pendulum-like between the two. To live by faith is a daily choice but it is not an easy one. Oftentimes, fear is our automatic response.
As believers, we read in the Word that without faith it is impossible to please God. Yet with faith, we can move mountains, whether those mountains are emotional, relational, financial or political. So we need to not only take hold of this thing we call faith but also be intentional about cultivating it in our lives. We know that we have each been given a measure of faith but as one person explained it: Faith is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows. And as one currently living in South Africa, I am finding that I need increasing faith as my journey through life progresses, for it is constantly tested on a daily basis. I am sure yours is tested too.
So here’s what I do to intentionally bolster my “shield of faith”:
- Read the Bible daily: Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. When I spend time in the Word, I not only gain a heavenly perspective on my daily realities, but I am also encouraged and strengthened in my faith;
- Fellowship in a local community of believers: It is here that I hear the testimonies of what God is doing in the lives of other believers — how He intervenes and turns what could be a bad situation into something that is good, as only God can;
- Surround myself with like-minded people rather than naysayers: A conversation with friends and/or family quickly turns to current issues in South Africa, so let it be one that speaks hope and challenges me in my faith rather than enables me in my natural inclination to expect the worst;
- Take a stand for truth and justice, whether at work, at home or at play. In the words of Peter Marshall: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. I am daily faced with decisions to stand for what I believe in or to conform to what is popular culture, just to fit in. I have to remind myself that I am not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of my mind — by the daily reading of the Word and by the support of fellow believers who are also taking up the faith challenge;
- Make an active contribution to a project or cause that makes a positive difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans: This helps me to shift my focus from my all-consuming needs to the needs of those around me, and in the process, I am encouraged to continue making a difference in my sphere of influence.
We are called to live by faith, right where we are, with what we have, today. It is by no means easy but altogether worth it. For if we are to see lasting change of the positive kind in this land we call Home, the alternative can no longer be an option.