In 1929, the American economy experienced what has been dubbed ‘The Great Depression.’ This fiscal event did not come out of nowhere. During the ‘Roaring Twenties’, the New York Stock Exchange’s Dow Jones had experienced unprecedented growth, increasing six times over from sixty-three (August 1921) to 381 (September 1929). However, the cataclysmic shakedown that began on ‘Black Monday’, October 28, 1929, led to a slide that took the Dow to 41.22 in the summer of 1932 – 89% below it’s peak value. It wasn’t until 1954 that the Dow returned to its 1929 heights. (1)
The facts are one thing; the realities of life in the midst of such uncertainty are another. Suicide skyrocketed in the wake of that economic crash. Families scraped and scrounged to make ends meet. Optimism and risk-taking gave way to doubt, suspicion, and retreat. An entire generation grew up repurposing everything, not because it was cool, but because it was necessary to survive.
How do you handle the unexpected? How do you respond to pressures that are outside of your own self? What do you do when your plans seem to be falling apart?
Ancient Israel used to have a tradition – a rhythm of life – that involved going to Jerusalem three times a year for the seasonal feasts. All who were able would leave their homes & journey to the center of the worship of Jehovah in the City of David. It was an anticipated time of sacrifice, of self-reflection, of the nearness of God, and of celebration. But…
On the way in those days, travel could be hazardous. The heat of the day, robbers along the highway, and accommodations at night could be difficult at best and fatal at worst. How did these travelers endure the risks of travel for the prize of the feast?
Interestingly enough, there are a whole series of Psalms that were the ‘Songs of Ascent’. The people would sing these along the road (no iPad or videos to keep everyone occupied!). Psalm 121 gives a realistic perspective of the journey that doesn’t retreat or lose hope. It says…
“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
“The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.”
In the midst of peril, the travelers would keep their focus on the LORD who is over all – hillside bandits and blazing heat and the fear of night. Jerusalem was the destination. Worship was the goal. God’s presence was the prize.
It may not be 1929, but we deal with the threats of a collapsing world around us, too. A wobbly Stock Market, inflation that borders on out of control, war that costs lives where it is occurring and hardships for food and fuel throughout the rest of the world (and we feel it at the gas pump, don’t we!). People across time have endured such hardships that make the heart faint and the spirit bitter if it were not for one thing – the promise of a risen Lord who has provided life forever with Himself. A life that is right and safe and better than anything our Stock Market or stockpile of weaponry could ever provide.
The next time you are feeling the threat of collapse around you, look to the hills. Better yet, look beyond the hills. Look beyond Jerusalem even. Look to Jesus. He can and will keep you now and forever!