A reason for optimism in the midst of challenges"Economist is 'tired of being miserable.' ” That was the headline of Brian Milner's Globe and Mail article, which focused on economists who are challenging the psychology of negativity. It specifically highlighted veteran ING economist Mark Cliffe, who stated that “pessimism is cyclical” and marches in lockstep with every downturn. Citing financial books with titles such as The Five Stages of Collapse and When the Money Runs Out, Cliffe showed that economic forecasters, like the rest of us, can be heavily influenced by immediate or present problems. This causes us to foresee a gloomy future without the possibility of correction or change. “Tired of being miserable,” Cliffe resolved to oppose the “fashionably gloomy view of the long-term outlook.”

We serve a creative God, and in some ways this business article spoke to me as powerfully as a sermon, challenging me to interpret recent experiences through the optimism expressed in Scripture.

Recently appointed to the Canada and Bermuda Territory, I had the privilege to travel to a number of ministry settings in June to meet with optimistic people who are shaping a future filled with hope. First stop, Winnipeg, where I met the new session of 18 trained Salvation Army cadets and five auxiliary-captains who were later ordained and commissioned as officers, then sent to locations from British Columbia to Newfoundland. These new officers are now ministering in challenging locations, balancing significant ministry demands with tight resources. As I listened to their enthusiasm regarding their first appointments, it struck me that they were not focusing on the obstacles, but on the opportunities before them. No wonder the yearly ordination and commissioning of new officers has been referred to as the “springtime of The Salvation Army.”

The next stop on my travels was to Newfoundland to participate in the Newfoundland and Labrador divisional congress. This event celebrated the wonderful Salvation Army heritage that is part of the very fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador, but something else significant and hopeful was taking place for those who were observant. A generation was passing the mantle of local leadership to the next, as young leaders were front and centre throughout the weekend. It reminded me that we have a responsibility to listen to these emerging leaders and then encourage them as they engage with a society that poses more complex challenges than we have experienced in the past. These new leaders spoke with passion as they strategized about how to shape a future that includes ministries of social justice to combat human trafficking and reaching those who have been left behind. I heard a message of hope from these young leaders, and was encouraged by the “veterans” who are standing in loving support of this next generation.

The final stop was a visit with the people of Alberta. Witnessing the resilience and “can-do” attitude of our brothers and sisters after the devastating flood in June has been profoundly inspiring and serves as a wonderful demonstration of how communities should pull together in times of need. Prayers and practical help are putting families back on their feet. I felt proud to be a Salvationist as I witnessed our part in the recovery efforts. It struck me once again that this situation could have been marked by absolute despair, but people have made the choice to dwell not on what has happened, but on what now needs to be done.

When faced with the challenges of life, we can find strength in knowing that we do not face them alone. Find hope today in the words of Isaiah 43:2 (NLT): “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”

The greatest reason for optimism is found in the love of God. He is with us in our time of need and we can partner with him to accomplish his will.

Colonel Mark Tillsley is the chief secretary of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

(Photo: © Ingimage.com)

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