Today is Presidents’ Day. It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
But our present times are difficult ones. I doubt that hardly anyone would argue that these times are not times of uncertainty. Mr. Trump has had a hard go of it so far, though he has been reluctant to admit. So, I went back to two old articles I had written on “Coping with Uncertainty” that turned out to be quite prescient at both times they were written.
The first was published on September 1, 2001. Ten days later we entered uncertain times indeed. The second, published in September 2008, proved to warn of the economic meltdown to come a few months later, especially the mortgage crises that forced so many people out of their homes.
What I am wondering at this point is: What are we in store for in 2017 -18 and . . . ? I, for one, do not feel particularly safe or secure at present; I don’t know about you. I just offer the following for your reflection and encourage you not to put your head in the sand. Wake up and pay attention! And above all, get down on your knees and pray!
Here is the article I wrote in September 2008 while George Bush was still in office and Barack Obama was not yet elected.
The Gospel teaches that . . .
. . . you never know. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Or for that matter, what the next moment will bring. The stability that you and I have acquired could be cut from under us at any moment.
How well do we face uncertainty?
How will we cope if we are hit by a hurricane or a tornado or a fire or a flood, or if we face foreclosure on our home? Sudden events, such as a car accident, a heart attack, a natural disaster, or the threat of terrorism can confront us with stress on every level. Many of us have great difficulty dealing with the uncertainties and insecurities of life. We can be filled with worry and anxiety.
Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.
“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman
Recently (back in the fall of 2008) I have been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other. My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many, many more.
Note this from The Miami Herald — 9/20/2008: “The Bush administration [proposed] an unprecedented bailout of the financial sector that will cost taxpayers ‘hundreds of billions of dollars.’ It jolted the markets for a day, but questions remained about whether the bold efforts would actually work. The truth is no one knows. America and its financial markets haven’t been down this road before.”
Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy. In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get. Foolish. Insane, actually.
Many will not be able to cope. But what will be a great grace, some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material rather than a spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hopefully, it will bring us and our nation to its senses.
What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family? To your bank? (hundreds of banks are at risk.) The bailout (so far) is only for the rich. The elderly who are living on 401k’s and IRAs are very much at risk. The bailout will not help them. ( Remember, I wrote this in 2008; what will we all be facing in 2018?)
No human being can know for certain what the next moment will bring. Uncertainty is just part of life. No matter what, we can be assured, if we have some faith and hope, that the presence of God in our life will give us the strength and the courage to hang on and hang in. God will give us the grace and the resources to deal with any life situation, though it may be difficult or not to our liking.
We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.
It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.
People who have a desperate need to control their own or other peoples’ lives will have the most difficulty with uncertainty or insecurity. (This has been true of some of our Presidents too, with some agonizing consequences.)
But control is ultimately an illusion. We are, in reality, not in control, for at the very next moment, we might have a fatal heart attack with not even a second more to arrange our lives. Thus, we perhaps take for granted that we have a secure home where most everything is predictable, that we have a place where we can relax and feel safe. We are drawn to be deeply grateful for the good-ordering of our lives. Profound thanks are in order when everything is working together for good.
Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.
Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.
For fifteen months now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society (again I was writing in 2008, but certainly the words apply to America today.) Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once were. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us get down on our knees and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)
And now, my prayer . . . .
Good and gracious God,
we come before you today to ask your blessing
upon this vast and great land of ours.
We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.
And so, we ask your continued blessing upon us.
Please bless President Trump and all elected and government officials
that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.
Let there peace at home and peace throughout the world.
For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.