Rhode Island changed America after the opening of Slater's Mill in 1793, giving birth to the Industrial Revolution. Before this time, the common man lived a more agrarian existence. Known for being self-sufficient and sustained by farming and trading, many would consider this a simpler life even amid the prevailing technology we use today. The benefits of the modern world are uncountable, notably in medicine and technology, yet we also see extreme disadvantages in areas of mental health issues and financial insecurity. Studies suggest that depression and anxiety are more prevalent today than ever before. Furthermore, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) point to anxiety disorders as the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults every year. Financial insecurity in America is primarily the result of an inability to save and poor financial planning, and other studies suggest that most families will not save enough for a comfortable retirement.
Stress and hardship are inevitable, but it is not the defining factor of our life. During His time on Earth, Christ faced these emotions, yet the way He handled His difficulties set the example for us. After one of His disciples openly expressed their betrayal and before His certain arrest and crucifixion, Jesus spent time with God in prayer and aligned His will with God’s. Paul, thought of as one of the most influential Christian missionaries, himself was incredibly persecuted, yet through it, he kept his perspective Christ-centered. In turbulent times he encouraged fellow Christians to “rejoice greatly in the Lord,” and he went on to write 28% of the New Testament.
God’s timing may not be our timing but it is always perfect. It has been said before that “God is rarely early, but always on time.” Christians have a special advantage during times of stress and difficulty. Paul wrote to inspire believers when he said: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). God is with you. God told the ‘Children of Israel,’ “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
Though it is sometimes difficult to pray in times of hardship, it is hardship that defines us and helps increase our faith. It was never God’s intention that we should be miserable on the Earth for our 80 years and then become happy in heaven. Again speaking to the Children of Israel, God said: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). God has thoughts of peace towards us. He wants us to be joyful now! The difficulty is aligning our will with God’s will for our lives, helping prepare us for difficult times. Assuring His listeners, Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Christ finished by instructing us what we should focus on: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6).
One area God designed to help give us strength comes from fellowship in our church family. We are told, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). We gain opportunities for joy, mutual comfort, unity, encouragement, and peace. The Apostle Paul ends his letter of 2 Corinthians by saying “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11). By displaying fellowship with our church and loving our neighbor as ourselves, we show the Lord devotion to His doctrine.
We as Christians have a tremendous advantage in facing turbulent times. We have a Father that will not abandon us during times of hardship. Even more, because God has called us to Himself, He promises to protect that relationship (John 10:28) and to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God’s calling of love is a promise to always be with us.