Knowing our times and responding to them

‘From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.’ (1 Chronicles 12:32 NLT)

I have been told that those experienced in trout fishing will carefully assess the river to determine the flow of the currents and so ascertain the best places to fish. I think it’s a very profitable exercise for all of us to do something similar with our world. We don’t have to be any sort of expert to recognise that these are concerning times. I’ve been peering at the turbulent waters and while I find things that are disturbing I also see much to encourage.

Think back for a moment to the cautious optimism at the start of the century. There was progress in the air. Economists, sociologists, educationalists, scientists, all promised that things were getting better. Global poverty could be ended; peace was here to stay; knowledge, democracy and justice were progressively advancing. There were murmurs of dissent from environmentalists but there was reason to be confident, calm and content. But it’s all changed. Now there is disillusionment, discouragement and despair.

Those dreams of peace and stability? They have been replaced by the nightmare reality of disastrous military interventions, failed states, and terrorism as an everyday fear. The murmurs of environmental worry have grown into loud cries of alarm. There is a widespread mood of uncertainty and suspicion in which it’s assumed that much of what we hear and see are dishonest claims, manipulated facts and edited images. The result of living in a ‘post-truth’ society is, of course, that we are ‘post-trust’.

Cynicism is the poison of our time. With that doubt comes a reluctance to make any commitment. Why make promises to anyone when lies and self-interest rule the day? The disillusionment and doubt have produced an anxiety that has generated bitterness. Increasingly, people believe that what’s wrong with the world is due to someone else. The result is that we live with angry accusations that dig ditches and create walls. People are divided. Truly we liv