“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” – Charles Dickens
In 1859 Charles Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel set in London and Paris detailing the social and economic challenges experienced during the French Revolution—a conflict that impacted most of Western Europe. That era was marked by political upheaval and transition, a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots, and industrial and vocational reformation. Dickens’ novel, however, emphasizes the recurrent theme of resurrection, chronicling how several individuals faced the challenges of those days with perseverance, determination and resilience.
Though we are definitely not living in the worst of times, we are certainly experiencing the toughest economy in recent years—a challenging time to keep your business afloat, a challenging time to maintain your job, a challenging time to make ends meet. But the worst of our times can bring out the best in us. Challenging times can fortify our faith, strengthen our character and deepen our resolve.
Your faith and your attitude can determine whether you view your problems with pessimism, desperation and despair, or whether you muster your courage and confront your challenges with perseverance, determination and resilience. If your attitude is positive, you can face the challenges of coming days with a firm faith and a proactive perspective. But if your attitude is negative, you will likely face these days with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
In 2009, will we emerge into a more healthy economy or sink into a more turbulent one? Will we move toward resolution of global conflicts, or will those conflicts intensify? Will there be a genuine restoration of trust in our national leadership, or will trust continue to deteriorate? Will we notice a resurgence of authentic faith-based decision-making, or more of a trend toward moral and ethical ambiguity?
No one knows for sure what the future holds, or the severity of the obstacles that will arise during the coming year. One thing is for certain: Your attitude when dealing with your complications will determine whether you approach life as a victim or an overcomer. If you find yourself in need of an attitude adjustment, why not begin now?
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39 NIV
Barry Howard serves as senior minister of First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.