Hardship may come but don't worry, just prepare

(Photo: Unsplash/Joshua Fuller)

There is something that we urgently need to come to grips with. The world is changing, and not for the best. There is no going 'back to normal'. Hardship - economic, financial, and social - is likely on the way, with all the associated chaos.

This is true because of simple realities, and because the people who said it wouldn't get worse - have been consistently wrong. This is not a rant or fearmongering, and if you continue reading you will understand why. My point is not the possible severity of the future we face, but the opportunities it presents and the good that can come of it if we respond the right way.

The decline is unfolding

It is obvious now that our economy won't be recovering to pre-pandemic levels for a very long time, as some overly optimistic (and dishonest) politicians have claimed.

And the reckless money-printing and spending that took place over that period has now resulted in a massive national debt and spiraling inflation that would have been an obvious outcome to any economist.

However you view the necessity of Covid policy and lockdowns, the fact is that the decisions made have very real and long-lasting consequences. Economic choices become social outcomes, as we are finding out.

Thousands of businesses have closed and will close, as stimulus and support keeping them afloat dries up. Jobs will go with the closures, causing unemployment to rise. The wealth those businesses created has been wiped out, and the financial deficit will be felt for years to come.

Inflation in Australia is estimated to hit 7%. The cost of power, fuel, and groceries are soaring. Interest rates will have to rise to keep it in check, slowing economic activity. A majority of economists are now saying a recession is on the way, if it's not here already. Some have even gone as far as predicting a depression.

We know historically the result of a 'perfect storm' like this is dire including poverty, food shortages, and crime. Let's just say that to a lesser extent we are experiencing the precursors of the collapse that is unfolding in Sri Lanka.

These uncomfortable facts are not meant to invoke fear or dismay, but simply to show that the golden era of prosperity and affluence we have grown up with is fading, and we need wake up from our trance. In Australia and many other developed countries, we have not faced true hardship in our lifetimes, certainly nothing close to that of the Great Depression and the World Wars.

The last two generations have been raised with a mentality that our way of life will continue to improve steadily into the future. But this assumes that what has been will always be. Our prosperous era is unique in history and incredibly fragile.

I believe the majority of Christians have become complacent with the rest of society; undisciplined, indulging in excess, treating our sanctification as a hobby, and mirroring the culture. We have come to view hardship and self-sacrifice as abstract concepts that can be engaged with on our own terms - if, for example, one decides to get involved with a ministry like foreign missions or helping the homeless.

When I think of the greatest spiritual challenges we have faced until now, the parable of the sower most often comes to mind, in particular the seed that fell among thorns:

Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them...Now the one sown among the thorns - this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (Matthew chapter 13, verses 7 and 22)

Many of us have fallen among the 'thorns' of modern affluence and are being spiritually choked by ephemeral concerns and the pursuit of lifestyle and prosperity. While our complacency is understandable given the relatively peaceful era we've just lived through, it has left us unprepared to deal with hardship, and more importantly to be a witness to others going through it.

We must prepare

If things really are changing for the worse as signs seem to indicate, our reliance on temporal things like financial security and the freedom to pursue a comfortable life will be our undoing.

We urgently need to seek a genuine faith and strength from our relationship with the Lord. Each of us needs to ask ourselves if we are the man in Matthew 7 who built his house on sand - when the storm inevitably comes, will we stand?

Suffering and hardship are part of the Christian experience. In fact, we are promised it will come if we are living for Christ. We do not seek it, but we do accept it as part of living in a fallen world and often as a catalyst for growth on our journey to God. So, are we prepared to face it when it comes?

And not just for ourselves, but for the sake of others who will be seeking a source of hope? So, let's stop half-heartedly pursuing God, preparing ourselves spiritually to face whatever lies ahead, and be the means by which others in desperate need will be shown the hope of Jesus Christ.

...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(Philippians chapter3, verses 13b-14)