John Bressler-0601011Listen to John Bressler read his column.
It was in the late summer of 1973 when a major change happened in the United States — and I'm not talking about Watergate. Prior to the "happening," gas prices were around 40 cents a gallon, a dozen eggs cost some 45 cents, the average salary was approximately 13,000 dollars a year, and a new house could run you $32,500. Then OPEC shut down its production and oil prices escalated 200 percent! Talk about overnight inflation!
Most folks in Florida would get up around 3 a.m. to sleep in their cars — in a line that went around the block — in order to get some gas when the station opened at 7 a.m. Gas went to the unbelievable price of 89 cents a gallon and just about everything else jumped on the bandwagon when it came to raising prices while wages remain stable, and by the way, this was the Florida that waited for the snow birds to come south for the winter so all the businesses could make a lot of money for the season. Floridians still refer to the years prior to the happening as the "good old days."
The churches flourished because the people knew where to turn in time of crisis. I remember visiting an old member who lived in Bay Village, the prestigious Presbyterian retirement center overlooking the inter-coastal waterway. Russ had retired as an executive for a New York-based company and his salary package enabled him and his wife to buy a penthouse and live the good life all senior citizens dreamed about. Russ found that his income was not only fixed but considerably spread very thin. He and his wife started counting pennies to see if there was enough money for an occasional night out and the weekly trip to St. Petersburg to visit family.
Russ had asked me to drop by because he was going to have to cut his pledge. This was a very emotional time for a man who had worked hard to earn and save for his retirement. With tears in his eyes he said, "John, this is not the America I grew up in."
I believe that if I were to look in the eyes of millions of young families and recently retired seniors, I would see the sadness and hear, "What happened to the American dream?"
The fact is that when everything seems to be grateful, predictable, endurable and manageable we can do just fine. When there is chaos and no end in sight, we struggle and rightfully so.
I look for answers that I know I cannot get from economics, government and certainly not Nostradamus, Google or Facebook.
I was taught that I Corinthians 10:13 can be translated to read, "… God is faithful and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but will provide you with endurance so you may be able to endure." I could not stand in the pulpit and promise good times were around the corner, this is a cycle of predictable events or things will improve tomorrow. I could, however, lift my Bible and proclaim, "God is faithful and He will never desert us! We will survive! We will come out of this with a strength that will amaze us!" And we did!
The people of God have endured beyond our wildest expectations. We have survived plagues, revolutions, civil war, world wars, deep depressions and upheaval and we will continue to survive. We will grow and survive, if we learn from our past mistakes and continue to rely on that which is infinite and everlasting.
The people of God do not hide in the face of trouble. We meet it, challenge it, fight it and endure it together.
We can call upon the name of God who challenges us to say, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear nothing; for thou art with me. … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!"
You know, I will survive!