3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
During the 1890s, sarcastically called "The Gay (Happy) 90s", the United States was in the midst of a deep depression. The country was rapidly being transformed from a farm-based society into an industrial giant. Some might have more accurately labelled the developing society an "industrial dwarf" however, for the transformation pushed several large railroad companies as well as 16,000 businesses throughout the nation into bankruptcy, the result was nation-wide unemployment! Cities around the nation became flooded with people looking for work. Most of these were forced to live in substandard conditions, and as is so often the case when unemployment is high, crime, pollution, and widespread epidemics resulted. Only a few, the rich industrialists, lived extravagantly.
Given these facts, is it any wonder the news of gold in the Klondike spearheaded such a massive stampede?
The city of Seattle had it no better than the rest of the nation. Besides facing the same nationwide depression, it was also trying to rebuild itself from the Great Fire of 1889. Business was almost completely dead, leaving extensive unemployment and hungry people in its wake.
As gold fever spread rapidly across the country, some of Seattle's finest city leaders recognized a golden opportunity for their city. If stampeders could be led to view Seattle as the place to embark for their adventures, local profits would soar!
On August 30, 1897, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce founded the Bureau of Information. The primary purpose of the Bureau was to promote Seattle as the gateway to the Klondike, and to counter the endeavors of any other west-coast town that might try to make the same claim. Soon newspaper ads and pamphlets appeared on the desks of librarians, mayors, newspaper editors, postmasters and railroad employees nationwide, promoting Seattle as the sole place to adequately outfit stampeders. Local inhabitants were asked to write to their friends back East to publicize their city, and any negative press was countered by a quick "Letter to the Editor". Too bad there was no Internet in those days! Their efforts would have been much easier and far less costly!
In March 1898, Seattle lobbied with Washington DC for the establishment of an assay office in town (This is not where essays are written, sorry!). An assay office was responsible for turning gold into cash. Having such an assay would mean that much, if not all, of that cash would in turn be spent in town! In June 1898, Seattle was granted their petition and local business began to bloom. In fact, the day the assay office's doors officially opened, it took in over $1 million in gold! (Would any of you like an assay office, by any chance?)
In a matter of months, Seattle was transformed into a booming, prosperous city, and to the joy of the city officials, the city's tax revenues grew. This allowed for substantial improvements to sewer systems (No more stink!), water systems (Do you think it was chlorinated at that time?), and gas systems. Seattle had succeeded in using the Klondike Gold Fever to turn the tide for them. Though they were hundreds of miles from the gold fields, they had literally "struck gold"!
As I reflect on the 1890s, I can't help but think about the different ways that we tend to face adversity.
Some complain about trouble. Complainers don't tend to get very far, however, for although the other grumblers will listen, anyone with good sense will turn a deaf ear! After all, criticism doesn't change the harsh realities of life!
Others develop an attitude of fatalism. This doesn't work either, as adversity continues to dominate every thought.
Still others face adversity with passion, fighting to subdue it under their own efforts and power. Some of these succeed, but many don't and they are left even more deflated than before.
How can I be so sure that none of these strategies work? Because through the years, I've tried them all!
So what CAN one do in desperate times?
Maybe we should follow the example of Seattle! Maybe we should see trials as golden opportunities-opportunities to grow, and opportunities to experience God personally and intimately! Instead of seeing "doom and gloom", we should face troubled times with anticipation and longing, for it is in the midst of trouble that we can see our Father's unfailing love most clearly!
David experienced God, and although he was persecuted by his king, he trusted in the Lord and faced adversity with confidence. What was his secret?
1. "When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I'm proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God. What can mere mortals do?" (Ps 56:3-4)
2. "The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles." (Ps 34:17)
Experience God for yourselves you will not be disappointed.
Has your life come to a standstill? Are you facing heavy trials? Why not experience what God has in store for you? You have a golden opportunity in front of you!
Dear Lord, thank You that we can experience You. Thank You that we can put our trust in your hands and that You will make us golden. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.