‘When Darkness Falls’ is an appropriate title for this article because all of us living in South Africa have once again been subjected to rolling blackouts, euphemistically referred to as Load Shedding.
It is not just that this is inconvenient, annoying, and disruptive to us as individuals, it is also hugely damaging to our nation. Businesses lose sales, industries lose production, labourers lose jobs, and the country will very soon lose the last remnant of its investment-grade status. Of course, all this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg because Load Shedding is but one symptom of a nation in crisis. Sigh!
In the midst of this ‘controllable crisis’, as the government minister calls it, the jokers, quippers, and cartoonists are emerging. Many of their efforts are really funny and I wish I could see the smile on my wife’s face when she reads them on her smartphone, but I can’t because it’s too darn dark (just kidding). Making light of something is one of our ways of dealing with fear and hardship. If we can’t get the lights on, we can at least get lighthearted, right?
However, humour doesn’t help to actually solve our problems, personal or national. What we need are visionary leaders, well-conceived plans, competent managers, and a national will to make things work. But we need even more than this, we need both realism and faith, hope, and love.
We need to be realistic in our expectations. Eskom is not going to transform into a model energy provider in a few months or even a few years. As a nation, we will undoubtedly fall fully into the ‘junk’ investment status and that will add another blow to our staggering economy. The political smog of war will not suddenly clear revealing a great saviour figure. Rather, the ruling party will continue for quite some time to wage their internal power-struggle and the opposition parties will continue to be opportunistic snipers and disruptors. Crime levels will not even stabilise until a great number of jobs are created and the police and judicial systems cleaned up and revitalised.
Yes, it’s dark now, and it is bound to get darker before the dawn. And after that, well, I am still optimistic that with God’s grace and help we can realise our hope for a just and prospering South Africa.
Ok, so much for realism, but what about faith? The three prime virtues of the Christian Faith are Love, Hope, and Faith Love for our nation is called nationalism and whilst pride in and love for our nation is a heart-stirring ideal, it is more the result than the cause of transformational change. Our politicians can make any number of nation-inspiring speeches (even if we had inspirational leaders), but talk does not create reality. However, we can and should love our fellow citizens of all races, genders, and religions and help each other through the dark times. This we can all do, and perhaps “many hands make ‘light’ work” after all.
Hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19); an anchor cast into the future that we grasp to pull our life-boat forward. However, hope must be based on trust and trust is based on positive past performance. Hope in something or someone we cannot trust is just wishful thinking and a ‘paper anchor’. But, there is one person we can trust, who’s past performance makes Him worthy of our trust, and that is Jesus Christ. We can and should put our hope in Him – in what He has done in giving us new spiritual life, in the example of His life and works, and in what He teaches us to be and do. We can place our hope in Him, and we can try as best we can to share this hope with those around us, both Christians and non-Christians alike.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)
The third of the golden-three is Faith. Christian faith goes beyond the more reasoned concept of hope to fully embrace the goodness, reliability, and divine perfection of God. It is a certainty that yields unconditional surrender to the object of our faith. And that object of our faith is not wealth, or education, or a politician, or ourselves, or even faith itself. The ‘object’ of our faith must and can only be the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate and eternally with us. This faith comes in part from a rational appreciation of the biblical evidence, but more so from the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. We can share this faith with others in our nation by helping them to ask for and receive the rebirth of their spirits in and through Jesus Christ.
So what can WE do in these dark times? We can be realistic about the prospects and time frame of national reconstruction, and we can be those who practice, share, and teach Faith, Hope and Love; and this we can do. And guess what? As we do this, WE can play a part in restoring our nation and making it a great place for our grandchildren.
Two scriptures that speak so powerfully to us in these days are Isaiah 60:1-2 and Matthew 5:14-16. Here they are. God bless you, dear reader. Be encouraged as you end 2019 and enter the new year that lies ahead.
Isaiah 60:1-2 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. NIV
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” NIV