How to Live in the Hard Times

by: Ronald L. Dart

Peggy Noonan wrote an article about what she called "The General Unease of the Country" and it really is so. I don't see how anyone could doubt it, but she noted something else that I had not put into words. She said, "The economy isn't the only reason for our unease. There's more to it. People sense something slipping away, a world receding, not only an economic one, but a world of old structures, old ways and assumptions. People don't talk about this much because it's too big, but I suspect more than a few, see themselves deep down as the designated mourner from the title of the Wallace Shawn play."

I wonder, is it really slipping away, or is it possible that something important could be restored, because America, in fact the world, has long since slipped away, receded from old structures and old assumptions and not necessarily into better things. The world at the beginning of the 2000's has been as different from the world of our founding, as darkness is from light, and we have been down this road before. Ms. Noonan is historian enough to know it.

The Roaring 20s

I know you have heard about the roaring 20s somewhere, sometime. World War One ended November 11, 1918. We used to call that Armistice Day and now it's Armed Services Day. That World War had been nothing like anyone had ever seen before. The casualties were staggering.

In Germany, some 750,000 civilians died. Many of them from hunger because Germany depended heavily on imports of food for survival. Millions of young men on all sides lost their lives and the loss affected the decisions of the nations for a long time after that. In fact it may have even led to World War II.

But as it began to rebuild in Europe, the economies of the world began to grow dramatically especially in Europe, where they called the decade "The Golden Twenties."

Technology exploded. People broke with tradition. Greed was everywhere as the economy expanded. Everything was exciting and thrilling, and fun until October of 1929, when everything crashed. Then followed the Great Depression for 12 years, which was only ended by World War II.

World War II

In World War II over 30 million people died and some estimates go as high as 60 million people, but through that horrible time, we recaptured something of who we were and what we stood for. If you happen to have a satellite radio in your car, try listening to the channel that has the music of the 40s. The popular music of the 40s was the most romantic music of the entire 20th century. Sadly, if you make your way through the decades following the 40s on satellite radio, the romance begins to die, and is replaced by sex and the music starts to die at the same time.

Hard Times Bring Out The Best In Us

Now why am I telling you all this. Well, it's fairly simple, Hard Times bring out the best in us. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, depressions, even war help us to understand what's important in our lives. It helps us to get back to basics. In the good times, we rot away at our center, at the core where the decay may not be apparent for a long time, but eventually it begins to break through the skin and sometimes it takes hardship to remind us how much we need family, friends, church, work, even God and hardship to bring renewal. Will it this time around? Bring renewal, that is? Maybe it depends on what we are mourning in our loss. Is it the character and love that came about at one time in our history or is it the money and what that money could buy?

My People Are Destroyed for a Lack of Knowledge

An old prophet, kind of summarizes this for us. His name is Hosea. You'll find this in the fourth chapter of Hosea and verse 6, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge, because they have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you should be no priest to me, seeing that you have forgotten the law of your God, I will forget your children. {7} As they were increased so they sinned against me, so I will change their glory into shame."

It's really hard to ignore the connection between the staggering wealth since the turn-of-the-century and the moral landslide we have seen in the same years.

Gun Sales Are Up

Ms Noonan noted another trend which has been in a lot of different news reports, "Gun sales continue to go up, the FBI's criminal record background check showed a 23% increase in February over the year before. A 29% increase in January. A 24% increase in December. A 42 percent increase last November, when a record 1.5 million background checks were performed.

Now in case you don't know this, these FBI background checks have to do with the ability to buy firearms. "Yes, people fear President Obama," She continued, "they fear he will take away the guns he thinks they cling to. The likely equal contributor to what the Wall Street Journal's ‘Market Watch’ called "A Gun Buying Binge" is captured in the slogan on one firearm maker's website, "Smith & Wesson stands for protection." "People are scared," so said Peggy Noonan.

People feel vulnerable and they aren't all that comfortable that the government will protect them. When I heard the stories about gunmen walking into a church and starting to kill people, this has happened several times over the last several years, it occurred to me that the evil seeks to go where there is unlikely to be any forcible opposition. Shooting up a church or school, think about it, is the act of a coward.

Government Cannot Protect Us from Random Acts of Violence

Are people becoming a little crazy? Yeah, it seems so, but here is the uncomfortable truth. The truth is that the government cannot protect us from random acts of violence. It is just not possible! I don't think though, that people really are all that scared. The people I talked to are better described as determined. They are a little bit grim. They set their jaw and they are determined that they're going to have to take care of themselves. They can't depend on the government to do it. Those who live close to the border are looking south, arming themselves and determining that if the government will not keep those people down there, they're going to have to prevent their kidnappings themselves.

Now this is not all bad. Suppose you're a burglar or a rapist. I realize how hard it would be for you to imagine that but just for the moment. How would you feel about breaking into a home that had a sign that read, "These premises are protected by Smith & Wesson?" Well, I think also it's not bad for people to lose confidence in the government as their protector. Oh sure, there are some things and some kinds of protection are so big we can't do it for ourselves. That's why we've got an Army and Navy and Air Force, and so forth. That's the government's responsibility to protect the nation as a whole.

But it's pretty hard for them to protect your house. Somebody's trying to break in from the outside, hey, you call the Sheriff's Department and depending upon where the patrol car happens to be at the moment. It can be anywhere from one minute to five minutes or ten minutes before they get there. Do you have any idea how long 10 minutes is when somebody is trying to break into your house and you are alone and unarmed?

You sometimes hear people worry about the Christian right, they think "Oh these people are going to bring in a theocracy." You know that is no more likely than that the government will find a way to stop random shootings. New gun control laws. Oh, it's way too late for that. Why disarm the honest citizens when you cannot disarm the outlaws and the terrorists? It is not possible.

And so it makes no sense at all to take guns away from the law-abiding people when they can't get them away from all of the outlaws.

I have more confidence in the men and women who are my neighbors than I do of the government. The sheriff will come, but he could be five minutes away and that is an eternity, if you're a woman alone in the middle of the night

Own a House and Learn How to Grow Things

Ms. Noonan turned the page to another sign of the times.

She went on to point to another area of difficulty. She said, "People are taking cash out of the bank in preparation for a long haul bad time. A friend in Florida," she said, "told me the local bank was out of hundred dollar bills on Wednesday because a man had come in the day before and had withdrawn 90 thousand dollars."

You know, I would be afraid to carry that much money home in a paper sack. It just doesn't make sense to me but people are doing it.

Peggy Noonan went on, "Five weeks ago when I ask a Wall Street Titan, "What one should do to be safe in the future?" He took me back with the concreteness of his advice and its bottom-line nature. "Everyone should try to own a house," he said, "no matter how big or small, but it has to have some land on which you should learn how to grow things.""

You know that is really sound advice. I don't know how smart it is to put your money in the mattress but owning a house and some land where you can grow stuff, now that registers with me. Food storage is smart, but food storage will only carry you through a short-term problem

So many died in Germany of hunger in World War I because they imported so much of their food and they are probably right back in that position again. Britain suffered terrible food shortages during World War II. They were on an island and imported all their stuff, but there was a whole lot of farming going on during that period of time, as people came to market with potatoes and cabbage and things they could eat, to keep body and soul together.

Psychological Pandemic of Fear

Ms. Noonan went on, she said, "She spoke to a Manhattan-based psychiatrist, who said, "There is an uptick in the number of his patients reporting depression and anxiety. He believes part of the reason is that when people move into a new home, they increasingly recognize the importance of their previous environment. Our new home is post prosperity America, the old one was the abundance and we miss it" but he also detected the political dimension to his patients anguish he felt that "many see our leaders as selfish and dishonest and that our institutions have been revealed as incompetent and undependable."

When I read that I said, "Really? Do you think so?"

"People feel unled, overwhelmed." He said, "the situation is seemingly unsalvageable." The net result, he thinks what he is seeing "within and without his practice is a psychological pandemic of fear as to the future of things, of our country, even of mankind."

Well, it's kind of hard to argue with that diagnosis isn't it? The names that have fallen in the mud over the past few months, used to be impressive, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America.

People Have Lost Confidence In Leadership

So who do you trust now? I think he's dead right, that people have lost confidence in leadership that they feel unled, but I see it a little differently. I see people beginning to do what they have to do, to be sure they can eat and feed their children and folks that is sanity! I see an increasing realization that the people we send to Washington are not faster than a speeding bullet, and they cannot leap tall buildings with a single bound. Nothing has impressed itself upon my mind more clearly in these days than this simple fact, no one in Washington or New York knows what to do. And if they did know, we have no reason to believe they have the will to do what needs to be done.

And so, being the sane people that we are, out here in the hinterland in flyover country, we look at this and we say, "Well, nobody is going to take care of me. I will have to take care of myself."

Americans Feel Vulnerable

The American people feel vulnerable. For the first time, I guess, since 9/11 and they're doing what they can about it. Someone even observed from the fashion world, that cleavage is out and women are covering up. Why? I think it's just as clear as it can be. They feel vulnerable and that is a perfectly reasonable feeling right now. Do what you have to do about it.

Ms. Noonan closed out her column, she said, "Now where does this leave us? The writer and philosopher Laren Vanderpost, in his memoir of his friendship with Carl Young said, "We live not only our own lives, but whether we know it or not, also the life of our time. We are actors in a moment of history taking part in it, moving it this way or that as we move forward or back. The moment we are living now is a strange one, disquieting one, a time that seems full of endings." And Peggy Noonan said, "To bad there's no pill for that."

I suppose not. But that is not to say, there is nothing to do about it. If I were an elected member of Congress, I would be thinking about what I was going to do after the next election, for I could not blame the people for turning me out of office cold, and putting me back on the street.

Read Your Bible

Spare a little pity would you for the people who have no rock to cling to, nothing to stand on, those people who read the Bible as an ongoing habit to understand life, to point the way to life, to give life meaning, they can at least see meaning in the events that take place around us, even when those events are unpleasant, but we have a set of standards to guide us through these hard times.

I know a lot of people think there is something mystical about trusting God and maybe there is, but what is mystical about "Thou shalt not steal?" What's mystical about the words of Jesus who said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses."

Now if you are a person and you read those things, you read "Thou shalt not steal." You read, "A man's life doesn't consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." If you begin to make that a part of your way of life, you are in a far better position than the people who don't.

Christian people who make their faith a way of life know how practical it is. By the way, we have been hearing a lot about greed in recent days.

Do you know what the Biblical word for it is, it is covetousness, pure and simple, and the Ten Commandments is like a light shining in a dark place.

When you make the Ten Commandments a rule of life you don't go around stumbling over things and consequently when the last commandment says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his ass or anything that is your neighbor's."

When the Ten Commandments is a part of your way of life, you are less likely to try to squeeze the last dime out of every transaction and therefore you'd be highly unlikely to be investing with some shady investor, who is offering returns far, far above the market and which can't possibly be offered without serious risk.

And when you know the God of the Bible, when you know Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, you are not so likely to commit suicide over a mere financial loss, as some poor souls have done.

I can only conclude that when a person commits suicide, because he lost his money, that money was all he had to live for, and I suspect for some of them even after losing a few billion dollars, they still had more than you or I will have in our entire lifetime. They could still live. They could still have a place. They could still have shelter, but because of the loss of all that money and the power connected with it, they are lost.

Read The Psalms

If you're a person who reads the Psalms as a part of your daily devotional, you also have something that will help you through, this psalm will drive a nail in it.

Psalm 37 verse 16, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. {17} For the arms of the wicked should be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. {18} The Lord knows the days of the upright and their inheritance shall be forever. {19} They shall not be ashamed in the evil time and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied."

Two really interesting things that come to mind in this Psalm. One is, that the inheritance of a righteous man is more than mere money or things. Second, the Psalmist does not say that, "If the days of famine come they will be satisfied." It says, "In the days of famine they will be satisfied."

Hard Times Will Come

I think that's really interesting! It's huge. What a huge value is to know for certain that hard times will come, and to prepare your family for them as best you can. All yeah, I know, you bought insurance to be sure that your family has money.

Problem! What happens if the insurance company goes broke? You can't depend on someone else. You can make such plans. I don't suggest you don't buy insurance, you should, but my point is, you can't trust those things. And when you know you can't trust them, and when you know hard times will come, you will do what you have to do to see to it that your family can make it through, come hell or high water. The Wicked, they assume that things will continue as they always have.

As one prophet put it in Isaiah 56 verse 12, "Tomorrow shall be as this day and even more abundant."

I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way. Yet there is something even in the wicked and they can't really resolve this.

Does Religion Affect How the Brain Works?

Someone sent me an article from the Calgary Herald that will surprise a lot of people. "A couple of researchers at Canadian universities decided to run a test on people to see what difference religion made in the way the brain worked. They gave people tests, where the people rated themselves on their religious beliefs and their certainty that God exists, then they separated them into groups and they had them put on a skullcap with electrodes." You probably have seen pictures of these things, "that evaluate brain activity and then they exposed these people to puzzles. They were taken back, by the research, it didn't fit what they thought so the expects did it again. Compared to nonreligious subjects, the highly religious had 30% less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex."

I know that means very little to you, it didn't mean a thing to me, but it is that part of the brain that regulates anxiety.

"Compared to the nonreligious subjects, the highly religious had 30% less activity in terms of anxiety. Those certain of God's existence had 45% less activity there compared to those who were convinced that there is no God. Religious people were just calm, they were more accurate. They said that when the participants were zealous, that fewer errors were made. We suggest that religious conviction buffers against anxiety by providing meaning."

I missed that last sentence the first time I read the article, but it summarizes neatly what was going on here. "We suggest that religious conviction buffers against anxiety by providing meaning." It's been experimentally determined now.

Victor Frankel saw this in action in one of the most stressful environments a man could possibly ever experience or even imagine, a Nazi concentration camp. His book was titled: "Man's Search For Meaning," and he spoke of man having a drive to meaning. That drive sends some men into conspiracy theories. It sends other men to God. But people who have managed to find meaning in their life can turn that anxiety meter down.

The professors who did the study said, "Everyone stayed relatively calm for the easy test, but the nonreligious brain got much more agitated during the difficult one. The religious people took their time, answered the questions more carefully and made fewer errors, if they did make a mistake, they took it in stride.

The anterior cingulated cortex is kind of like an alarm bell that rings when something's not right. You made an error. The things that tend to set it off are anxiety inducing, such as an error, uncertainty and conflict.

Have Faith In God

Now all this comes together to tell me that those who have placed their faith in God are simply more prepared for hard times, than those who are not, and it isn't mystical, doesn't depend on God pulling levers or pressing buttons. You may think you have it hard but compared to Christians in the Roman world of the first century, you have faced no hardship at all.

Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians about how to face the challenges that are going to come their way. He said, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children." This is Ephesians chapter 5, {2} "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Now think about how different it is living in a land with a significant Christian presence, even dominating, compared to the world that Paul lived in, in Rome. I mean, we have soup kitchens for the hungry. There are shelters for the homeless, the poor among us live better than King David or King Solomon, and better than 95% of the world's population.

And we still struggle and feel anxious about it? We who are Christians can depend on one another and we have enough left over to take care of other people who aren't Christians

Paul continues in verse 3, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, nor of any kind of impurity or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people, {4} Nor shall there be obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, these are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

You know right there is something concrete to do for the hard times that lie ahead. It's time to put these kind of things out of your life, because they don't match the meaning that God gives to your life.

Paul goes on to say, closing out. {15} "Be very careful, then how you live your life, not as unwise but as wise, {16} making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. {17} Therefore, don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."

You know that is really good advice for times like the ones we are living in, and those who trust God, simply will get through days like this better than people who don't. So take heart, go out there, do the right thing, have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.

Until next time, I'm Ronald Dart.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This article was transcribed with minor editing from a Born to Win Radio Program

given by Ronald L. Dart titled:   How to Live in the Hard Times

09LHTC 03/17/09

Transcribed by: bb 4/20/2020

Ronald L. Dart was an evangelist and is heard daily and weekly on his Born to Win radio program. 
The program can be heard on over one hundred radio stations across the nation.

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