How do we view the things happening in our beloved country at present? When we open our newspapers and read of yet more murders, rapes, fraud, and road deaths, to say nothing of a government that has failed to deliver on so many fronts, what is our reaction? Do we feel a sense of bewilderment and helplessness? Anger and frustration? Or do we focus only on the good things and ignore the bad? Some people, I have heard, only read the cartoons!
Human beings are by nature either optimists or pessimists; but Christians are called to be realists. Yes, we read the disaster stories and share in people’s grief and outrage; we read the success stories and rejoice with those celebrating. That is normal behaviour. The test comes when we are faced with a situation that is bad and seems set only to get worse or to remain unchanged. Yes, we see the facts: but do we listen to what God may be saying? What we see before us is real, but with God it may not be the final reality.
Here is a Biblical example. In Romans ch.4 we read how God had promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations; but he was faced with the fact that both he and Sarah were beyond childbearing age. Did he deny what he saw? Or did he doubt God’s promise? No, he did not: vs.20 tells us that he did not ‘waiver through unbelief”, but was ‘fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” And God did: he gave them Isaac.
So how do we apply that lesson to our daily lives? I would like to suggest this way: see every bit of bad news as both a challenge and an opportunity. Jesus did. Here are some examples: a synagogue ruler’s little daughter dies while he is en route to his house, and he is being delayed by a woman with a chronic health problem, which aggravates the situation. Challenge: does he brush the woman aside? Does he simply give up the mission on receiving the news that the girl is, medically speaking, now beyond help? The challenge for Jesus here is to keep his faith strong and to do something to help. The opportunity, which he sees clearly, is both to heal the woman and to raise the girl from death. He does so, and two lives are changed forever.
Jesus’ approach to bad news, problems, and tragic events was to assess the challenge they presented, i.e ‘What are you going to do about this?”, but also to see such situations as opportunities to take action which would both turn them to good and glorify God.
I believe that is the way we should do it as well. Let me give one or two examples where people have done just that. Remember the hospital strike of 2010? Well, the Church in PE saw it as an opportunity to both change the situation and glorify God. Livingstone Hospital was cleaned up by teams of volunteers. Another example: residents have potholes in the roads outside their homes, with a Metro that can’t come and fix them up. Opportunity: a local hardware chain now sells a diy pothole repair mixture. Problem solved.
What problems are you facing? What are the challenges they present? And, most importantly, what opportunities is Jesus going to give you to solve them? Wait on him, and he will show you what to do.
Yes, our beloved South Africa does have many, many problems. We can’t deny that. But I know that our Lord Jesus is never taken by surprise, never at a loss for words, and never unsure about what to do. Trust him, and he will act.