With the world seemingly coming apart all around us, is there anything you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
Times are tough, and will grow tougher…
but there is a way of escape!
The fabric of our world seems to be unraveling before our very eyes. Society seems to be barreling downhill like a runaway train out of control, with no brakes, no conductor and no clear view ahead. Uncertainty and fear pervade the global mood. Many worry about the surge in racial tension, violence and terrorism, amorality and anger politics. Others fear a global economic collapse. Around the world, many are beginning to feel that something is terribly wrong. What can you do? Read on!
The world truly seems to be coming apart all around us. Old assumptions no longer seem to apply. To make sense of the events of the year 2014, New York Times writer Roger Cohen summed the year up this way: "It was the time of unraveling. Long afterward, in the ruins, people asked: How could it happen? It was a time of beheadings… It was a time of aggression… It was a time of breakup… It was a time of weakness… It was a time of hatred… It was a time of fever… It was a time of disorientation…" ("The Great Unraveling," nytimes.com, Op-Ed, September 15, 2014). In other words, 2014 was a time of great distress around the world.
A year later nothing had changed. If anything, the runaway train was careening faster and faster. On August 30, 2015, blogger Chris Hedges wrote of the unstable mixture of frustration and anger around the globe, and the violence it was spawning: "The physical, environmental, social and political disintegration is reflected in an upsurge of nihilistic violence driven by rage. Crazed gunmen carry out massacres in shopping malls, movie theaters, churches and schools in the United States. Boko Haram and Islamic State (ISIS) are on killing rampages. Suicide attackers methodically commit deadly mayhem in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Iran, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Mauritania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, Nigeria, Russia, India and Pakistan" ("The Great Unraveling," truthdig.com). Where will it all end? Is this the "new normal"?
The November 2015 and March 2016 terror bombings in Paris and Brussels have confirmed many Europeans' sense that something fundamental has changed, and it is not clear whether it will be possible to change back.
In the Middle East, five years of war in Syria have not only destroyed much of that nation, but have profoundly affected Europe to the northwest. In November 2015, blogger John Feffer described how the great upsurge of refugees into Europe is destabilizing that continent and may rip it apart. He wrote: "The figures are staggering. In what looks like a vast population transfer from a disintegrating Greater Middle East… an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim fervor is now gripping parts of Europe, while far-right parties are, not coincidentally, on the rise… All of this (and more) represents a stunning development that could, sooner or later, reverse the increasingly integrated nature of Europe, raise walls and barriers across the continent, and irreversibly fracture the European Union…" (John Feffer, "John Feffer: On the Verge of the Great Unraveling," tomdispatch.com, November 10, 2015). Just three days later, 130 people were killed in coordinated attacks around Paris. And on January 1, mob sexual assaults took place in Cologne and in other cities around Germany, shocking the European Union and prompting more concerns about radical fringe elements amongst asylum seekers in Europe.
Also in December, the Financial Times Web site summed up the world's economic outlook for the year this way: "In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world's major power centers. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled. This kind of globalised anxiety is unusual… At the moment all the big players seem uncertain—even fearful." ("Battered, bruised and jumpy: The whole world is on edge," FT.com, Gideon, Rachman, December 28, 2015). Since that time, more fears of a global collapse have surfaced.
What are we to do? Are we to worry and feel anxiety about the future? As we see these events happening around us, how are we to respond?
It may not just be world events and national problems that worry you. You may also be concerned about your own personal challenges. With what some are calling "the unraveling of globalization," jobs are increasingly difficult to find and keep. Many people are under stress as money grows tight. Families are suffering from the effects of crushing personal debt, all over the world. Others suffer from relationship challenges—getting along with their mate, relating to their children or parents, or overcoming personal problems.
Whatever you are stressed about—and no matter how our world seems to be unraveling—we can have hope. There is a way of escape, through God's way of life, even when we find our world falling apart. It is important to note that the societal decline and decay we are seeing today were predicted many centuries ago. Paul wrote about it in his second letter to the young evangelist and pastor, Timothy: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self–control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
What a list! Paul was trying to explain, in as many ways as he could, what he foresaw through God's inspiration. It would be a catastrophic moral collapse at the end of the age. It would be a time when people would be more concerned with their own selfish desires than serving their Creator, or serving their fellow man. It would be a time when people would be more concerned for themselves than for their children or future generations. Historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson has predicted the collapse of "the American empire" within our generation. One of the reasons why he feels the United States will collapse is that our generation is more concerned with ourselves than with the next generation ("Niall Ferguson: Four Reasons America is Falling Apart," thinkadvisor.com, Gil Weinreich, May 2, 2013). What an indictment!
From different vantage points, many have a sense that things are not going in the right direction. People are concerned that things are spiraling out of control in economics, politics, morality, industry, education; they sense that there is an erosion of civil order. Decent people all over the world fear there is something going wrong.
How did this happen? Where did we go wrong? To find the cause, we have to look at the past. The legalization of same-sex marriage in countries around the world is a serious sign that there is something wrong in society. The rise of infidelity, divorce, and the breakdown of the family is an issue causing social problems around the globe. The scourge of abortion has for decades meant that, even in our enlightened, modern world, scores of millions of precious lives have been tragically snuffed out. However, even these social ills are not the real source of our problems! We have to look beyond the last few years, or last few decades. We need to look into history. Frankly, we need to go back to the beginning. Where can we find the beginning? The biblical book of Genesis.
Scoffers—even some professing Christians—contend that the book of Genesis is myth and fable. But Genesis is Scripture, and all Scripture is given "by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Genesis includes the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—and Jesus quoted from Genesis 1 and 2 (Matthew 19:4–6). Adam and Eve were real, and the choices they made produced consequences for the whole human family. They set in motion the social ills and societal decay we face today.
In the book of Genesis, we read that God created the grass, the trees, the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air. He created everything! He created man, and from man He created woman. He told them to populate the earth and rule righteously over it. He taught them what they needed to know to thrive in their new environment. But very quickly, something went awry. Notice in Genesis 3:1: "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden"?'" Here, Satan the Devil entered the picture. This is the angel who perverted his way, and chose a path of rebellion against God. And now, in the Garden, he sought to sell that way to the first human beings. Further, we read: "And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, "You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die."' Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Genesis 3:2–5).
Satan set the trap. He told them God is a liar! That has always been his message: "Don't trust God. Don't follow all of what this book says. You can pick and choose. You can choose to be unfaithful to your spouse. You can murder with impunity. You can lie and cheat and steal for a 'good' cause!" Humanity has certainly followed this path, blindly making its own rules. But it all started in the Garden of Eden.
What happened to Eve? She took the bait. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings" (Genesis 3:6–7).
For the first time, Adam and Eve felt guilty. Why? Because they had turned away from God, and chosen a different path. Every one of us has the same nature! Like our parents, every last human being has chosen the wrong way—except for Jesus Christ, who did not sin! So, why are we surprised that evil, corruption, moral depravity and violence increase? It all started back there, in the Garden. Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, thus cutting off the human race from God. And that is the path of the majority of humankind ever since.
The question is, what path are you on? Are you seeking to obey God and walk in His paths? Do you have the authority to decide what is right and wrong, or is that God's prerogative?
The fabric of society is unraveling around us. But what can you do about it? You and I can choose to go on the right path and resist the wrong one. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13–14: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." What do you do, when everything around you seems to be falling apart? What do you do when you have a serious conflict with a mate? When you feel your world at home is crashing down on you? What do you do when you can't seem to get out of the cycle of strife and arguments? Where do you turn, if you are struggling in your marriage?
Give up your own way. Choose to walk in God's paths, the ways of Jesus Christ, of the Bible. Society is on the wrong path—but you need not follow blindly.
Just before Jesus Christ gave His life for the sins of the world, He spoke these encouraging words: "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know" (John 14:1–4). Satan portrays God as a liar. He snarls, "You can't depend on what God says—you can't trust God." But we, at some point in our life, are going to have to decide who we will believe: those who are influenced by the message of Satan the Devil? Or the real God of the Bible?
Notice Jesus' response to the doubting Apostle Thomas: "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:5–6).
The only way to life is through a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. We must let Him put His Spirit in us and live His life in us. We must keep His commandments. We must begin to walk the way He walked, and live the way He lived. We must reject the way of the world!
The prophet Jeremiah lived through the collapse of a powerful nation, the ancient nation of Judah. He lived through the unraveling of a kingdom. He mourned over the sins of his people and the punishment they suffered because of their sins. But he also lived through it—and survived! He was faithful to God. He was part of God's Work at that time, involved in preaching to that generation the message of truth and hope and the true way of life. His message resonates for our generation, facing so much uncertainty, today. On the one hand, Jeremiah prophesied the punishments they would go through for their rebellion against God. Then, however, he added the encouragement of life and peace beyond the dark times. Here were the words God was speaking to that generation: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
A future and a hope. What could be better? That is what everyone wants—whether you live in Brussels or Birmingham, Colombia or Cote d'Ivoire. All parents want their children to live in a world of peace. They want the security to know they can work and provide for their own. They want to know how to cooperate with their neighbors. They want to know how to make their marriage and family relationships work.
This is not yet that world. Millions have fled Syria and suffer as refugees, seeking a home. Other millions are displaced right in their own nation, with nowhere to run. Families in the Ukraine live in a nation with a collapsing economy, as a result of ongoing fighting between government loyalists and insurrectionists. The suffering goes on and on.
Sadly, because of humankind's choices, this world's path leads to chaos, destruction and death. But the Eternal God says that, ultimately, He has in mind a future and a hope for all those who are willing to choose His way. Read further, in verses 12–13: "Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
The world is changing. At the time of the end, Jesus said, "there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:25–26). Christ is coming back, and He will stop humankind from exterminating itself, just in time. However, some will mistake Him for the enemy and will be frightened, because they do not know Him.
But to those who know Him, His return will be a thrilling event! "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:27–28).
You need not be afraid when the world unravels around us. There is a path to security, peace and hope. There is a way that brings fulfillment and tranquility—even in tough times. Our Creator God is holding that opportunity out to you! Act on the truth! The choice is yours!