02 September 2014

Hope or despair: the problem with credit and the hope of Psalm 49

I want to start by saying that I realize that many of my posts seem very cynical of the current generation. I'm part of this generation and I teach the generation that's following me (or half-generation, since they are still only 7 or so years younger, generally). This does not give me any kind of major authority, since I have only lived in a handful of cities and taught/studied at even fewer universities. I also realize that, as a Christian, I may sometimes say things that seem a bit too much like a blanket-statement. Of course, in this area, too, I am no expert. However, the evil in our world grieves me greatly, and this is one of the spaces where I try to voice that grief, while also hoping to show that I am trying to choose hope. Having said all of this, I hope you'll take my words with a grain of salt, whether you read from the perspective of a Christian or not.

The past few weeks have held many lessons for me. Each "problem" (read=teachable moment/lesson) has ended up prompting the same question: do I choose hope or despair? In the world we live in and the culture it fuels, despair (the big brother to disappointment, in my opinion) is rampant. The average person is so distracted by what they do not have and by what they wish they had that they a) are not focused on the present, thus likely missing many wonderful moments, and b) often go to ridiculous lengths to get/attain these things or "statii". Credit, often seeming to be the "key" to getting what we want without actually being able to afford it, is at once an awesome and terrifying thing, but rarely now do people fully understand what it means to use it well. I mean no disrespect to those who have had to use it more than they would have liked to, because I have, too. Everything is more expensive these days, and what our parents were able to do at 30 is not as easy for us. However, the laziness that plagues our culture doesn't leave much space, if any, for the 20- and 30-somethings (not to mention the teenagers with iPhones and credit cards lining their bookbags) to work out just how to get un-hitched from credit as the first "solution" to this imbalance.

This week, my devotional has been focusing on Psalm 49. For the issue of money and wealth, these verses are pretty powerful for the encouragement they give to those who haven't "hit it big"...meaning the majority of us! (Though it does paint the wealthy in quite a cynical light.) At the time this psalm was written, I can only imagine how wide the gap of physical/living condition comfort was between those who were not a king, politician, or successful tradesman and those men who were. Many of those who struggle greatly to make ends meet in our current society still come home at the end of the day in their own car to a roof over their head and food on the table. Even they often despair. But for them and for those with no home, no car, and likely no food on a regular basis, the psalmist encourages:
Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. (12-13) 
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed--and though you get praise when you do well for yourself--his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. (15-19)
These words encourage and sustain me, today. Michael and I are in the process of buying a home, and this is a huge change. There will be many adjustments, and quite possibly some unsettling moments financially. I believe that we have prepared as well as we could, but it is easy to get distracted by the potential of unexpected expenses or repairs. So, I ask God to help me focus instead on what I have and the grace He has given us.

I pray that you choose hope today. I also try to practice joy and patience, but I find them to often be natural outpourings of hope! Bless you.

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