John Stackhouse teaches at Regent College
in Vancouver and is the author of Need to
Know: Vocation as the Heart of Christian
Epistemology (Oxford, 2014). Find more of these
columns at www.Faith Today.ca/ChristAndCulture.
oil prices recently sank to a four-year lo w and the Internationa l Energy Agency, a consultancy to
29 countries, predicts they will fall
further in the year to come. As
Canada’s economy depends so
much on oil production, our
petrodollar is only in the “high
80s” and likely to drop further.
Remember when our dollar was at
par with the American, and oil
prices were expected to go up and
up, and Alberta’s tar sands looked
like a really mucky gold mine?
Who foresaw the new Russian
czar risking war to annex parts of
Ukraine? Who predicted ISIS’
reign of terror? Who, besides some
paranoid screenwriters, imagined
something like Ebola making its
way out into the rest of the world?
At the end of interviews on a recent event or trend, journalists
customarily ask the experts on the
hot seat to predict the future. This
practice continues even though we
all recognize that no one will remember what they said and hold it
against them five years from now, so
they can say what they like. And no
one can infallibly predict what will
happen five months or five weeks or
five days from now, so now it really
doesn’t matter what they say.
Most of the Bible and other literature of Christian spirituality were
written in precarious times. Writers
and readers had a much stronger
sense than perhaps most of us middle-class Canadians of how fragile
life is, how quickly and drastically
our situation can change, and how
little we can properly predict.
Aleksandr Men was a Russian
Orthodox priest who ministered
in the turmoil between Khrush-
chev and Gorbachev. He wisely
taught his reader to “live wholly in
the present moment, fully joining
God’s will…. Try to complete the
task at hand as well as possible,
sweeping aside cares about the
past and the future.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to a
hard-pressed church from his own
prison cell, “Do not be anxious
about anything” (Philippians 4: 6).
And to slaves – among the most
vulnerable members of his society
– he counselled, “Whatever you
do, work at it with all your heart”
(Colossians 3: 23).
And their Lord Jesus Christ
preached during tumultuous times
as well, giving similar advice.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry
about itself. Each day has enough
trouble of its own” (Matthew 6: 34).
Many of us try to manage the
future through wise investments,
healthy eating, proper exercise,
careful driving, prudent job training and plenty of insurance. Some
of us, in fact, are so devoted to such
concerns that we’re called “control
freaks” (although I prefer the term
Aleksandr Men, however, knew
the times in which he was living –
which are the times in which all of
us actually live. Frequently harassed
by the state police, he served as he
could with vigour and creativity,
and was murdered with an axe
when only 55 years old.
The Apostle Paul likely lived
somewhat longer, but his life was
fraught with frustration, mob violence and imprisonment, and it too
The Lord Jesus died a young
man, also a victim of selfish and
witless powers, only a few years
after His public ministry had
begun. And he knew, as no one else
did, that His whole nation would
be crushed only a generation later,
as Titus swept in with his legions
to suppress another rebellion once
and for all in 70 AD.
How many of your acquaint-
ances, once perfectly healthy, now
struggle against versions of just one
single disease – cancer? How many
faithful workers have lost jobs even
in the last few years? How many
friendships have faded, partner-
ships dissolved and romances fallen
apart? The churn is relentless.
Pundits have been telling us for
a long while now to “prepare for
change,” that “change is the new
normal.” But no one can prepare all
that much. After all, none of us
knows what’s coming.
Those of us who profess to heed
God, then, need to heed the advice
of His spokespeople. God leads, but
God leads day by day, hour by hour.
We can count on God to provide for
us whatever glimpse of the future
we need to execute today’s duties,
endure today’s trials and enjoy today’s pleasures. But God rarely affords us more of a look than that.
And most of today is going to be
properly spent not peering out
dimly into an unseeable tomorrow, but focusing clearly and faithfully on what is evidently and
providentially at hand.
That, I find, is usually enough to
keep me plenty busy. /FT
I find more
the wing of
a bird and in
of a tree
than in 500
has given us
the Bible and
–Fr. Aleksandr Men
CHRIST & CULTURE IN CANADA
JoHN g. sTackHousE JR.
day by day . . . in the 21st century
How can we deal with our worries about tomorrow?
fr. aleksandr Men,
the son of jewish
and baPtized in
the coMMunist era
by Mother Mariya,
abbess of a covert
coMMunity of nuns.
on the christian