Many of us have been there – turbulence in the stock markets, nervous clients, projects cancelled, news of lay-offs, rumours within the organisation; and then the all-staff meeting confirming the worst – there will have to be redundancies. I’ve lived long enough now to recognise it as a familiar pattern. Sleepless nights; panic about providing for your family and keeping up mortgage payments; a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. A feeling of failure, even though it was all beyond your control, and in spite of you putting your heart and soul into your job.
Life is full of uncertainty and insecurity. Global events, which see normal life grind to a halt, share prices plummeting, and very nearly the meltdown of the world’s financial system, leave even the most optimistic of us feeling anxious, and completely powerless to affect anything.
Thousands of miles away from these shores, millions of people, through no fault of their own, are born into poverty or life as a refugee, and find life a battle for survival as they grapple with disease, mal-nutrition and the effect of greedy dictatorships, bankrupt economies and meaningless conflict. They, too, must feel completely powerless. The plight of those in impoverished situations can make our concerns and anxieties pale into insignificance, but one way or another we are all grappling with a considerable level of uncertainty in life. We all long for security, and a trouble free life, but it remains elusive. Maybe we have treated these things as a right rather than a privilege.
1 Cor 4 v 11 (The Message) – You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of life’s frailties and uncertainties. You might be well thought of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around.
In chapter 4 of the first letter of Paul to the early Corinthian believers, he reminds them that, even as a leader, he has had to wear threadbare clothes, and pick up odd jobs just to eke out a living. Not exactly life at the top of the corporate ladder!
Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers is to get things into perspective and change the way they respond to situations. He encourages them to ‘live in the midst of life’s frailties and uncertainties’. Live in the midst of, accept as reality, not avoid or get angry about. Paul points out that believers are not immune from knowing insecurity, ridicule, poverty, homelessness and exclusion.
Paul encourages them to ‘grow up well, not spoiled’. ‘When people call us names’ he says, ‘we say God bless you. When people spread rumours about us, we put in a good word for those telling the tales’. That’s quite a challenge!
It seems to me that suffering, however it may impact us, may just come with a fringe benefit. It can grow in us some resilience, some steadfastness, some maturity, even some humility. It can make us more tolerant, more accepting and more compassionate. So let’s ask God to help us not to be so consumed by our own frailties and uncertainties that we’re deaf to the cries of others.
Image credit: Matthew Osborn via Unsplash