These Trying Times

Updated: Sep 13

By Rick Watson



On December 23, 1776 Thomas Paine penned a paper with an opening line that has been uttered by many during trying times. Following are a couple of excerpts from that paper. "THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods… ‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them, Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world." History serves as a great teacher. Two days after Paine wrote his crisis paper George Washington and his Continental army crossed the Delaware River. The next day they defeated a garrison of Hessian mercenaries (The Battle of Trenton) giving confidence to the cause of freedom from British rule. These present times find us in a battle, albeit a much different battle, that is trying our souls. We are in a battle against a seemingly relentless virus. Our daily routines are met with radical change. Mainstream media, regardless of its concept of good intentions, oscillates from panic to calm, back to panic, and then back to calm. Social media is a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It behooves us to filter what we hear and bring balance to the chaos. So, where do we turn. We are Christians—we turn to the Bible—we pray for peace, wisdom, courage, and self-control. Paine reminds us that panics sometimes have their uses and that we should not miss the good fruit they produce. He reminds us that through them we discover better habits and that the associated stress reveals the true nature of the person. In 2 Timothy 1:7, the writer assures us: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This is not a time for the summer soldier or the sunshine patriot. Neither is it the time to be foolish—we are to be of sound mind. Your church services may be cancelled—don’t fret. Separation from our brothers and sisters will not diminish our mutual love and unity as Christians. The leading of the Holy Spirit will result in a power for which we are not yet aware and may not see until this crisis subsides. We are in the midst of curious times with new challenges. Let us take this time to develop better habits; time to find our true nature; time to find a closer relationship with our Savior and our families. Do you believe that God works in mysterious ways? If so, then you should be ecstatically anticipating what is coming when this curious time has passed.

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