Sound habits for unusual times
How are we to live in times of disruption and dislocation? What attitudes and habits do we need to nurture and guard?
In Ecclesiastes 11 the writer (likely Solomon) points us to three things we don’t know and three disciplines we need to safeguard. I revisited this passage recently as I prepared for a webinar called Leading Beyond the Blizzard, and once again found its ongoing relevance remarkable.
The writer points out, first, that we do not know what disaster will fall upon the earth. Our response? We are called to be generous. It’s not just that generosity matters in disastrous times, but because we don’t know what disaster will befall anyone, so everyone is called to be generous in times of both prosperity and want. Generosity exhibits a divine message – We are not alone even when we don’t understand what is happening.
Generosity is a way of living, not a tactical ploy.
As well, our motivation isn’t security for a possible future emergency, though for this reason some may be generous to be prudent. Recall the steward about to be dismissed who reduced the debts of others to his boss to incur personal favour later (Luke 16:1–9). Overall however, in Scripture, generosity is a way of living, not a tactical ploy.
The second thing we do not fully understand are the activities of God. Ecclesiastes 11 gives two examples – the path of the wind and the miraculous formation of an unborn child. We are unable to fully know the work of God across creation or the mind of God who by His nature is good and just.
So in humility we confess His ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33, Isaiah 55:8–9). Whether or not we understand, we are not to presume we know – because we could become too distracted in our speculations and interpretations. Rather we are to be focused. "He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap."
I once asked my neighbour Tommy, a seasoned farmerbusinessman, about his timing of cutting and baling hay given that a surprising rain could ruin so much. With a large grin he said, "Just keep your head down." When we are focused on tasks at hand, being faithful in what He has called each of us to do, we do not fret or worry. Most of all, we do not have to try to outthink God in unusual times.
Third, we do not know what will succeed. We are encouraged to not become despondent or idle. We are to be diligent – attending to Scripture, to the principles and attitudes it enjoins, and exercising our gifts and abilities. Yet this is often difficult in uncertain times with pressing priorities, trying to anticipate and execute plans with shifting horizons.
Being diligent, then, is choosing to trust in God, grounded in prayer including fasting and rest. This is not idleness, but guards sound habits of heart, mind and physical well-being. In our closeness to God, especially in unusual times, we can expect a harvest of hope that gives life and comfort.
These three – generosity, focus and diligence – require mature faith in times of crisis and uncertainty. They will seem counterintuitive to the natural senses. Our first impulse is to hoard and protect what we have. When needy, can anyone think of being generous? Distraction is also an impulse, entrapping people in paralyzing worry fuelled by scanning the news for more threats.
We do not have to try to outthink God in unusual times.
Will our choices advance or hinder the plans of God? We can all feel the impulse to turn from God to put our trust in other gods who may seem to offer more obvious forms of salvation – comfortable allies in the face of suffering. When success is uncertain, don’t so many just start treading water to conserve resources and energy?
We place our faith in our God who is full of mercy, grace and compassion, who always sustains and guides. It is Jesus as Lord, not just Saviour, through whom we can make our requests known to God (Philippians 4:4–8). It is the Spirit’s work in leading and guiding us in our daily decisions, in how we view the shifting horizons and how we fellowship with each other – encouraging one another and affirming we are His loved children.
Times of crisis and uncertainty test our faith, enabling our resolve to respond and lead in ways that will be peculiar to others and yet, for believers, the opportunity to bring glory to God.
Bruce J. Clemenger is President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Please pray for our work and support us at www.TheEFC.ca/Donate or toll-free 1-866-302-3362.