And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.–Philippians 4:7

Last night the History Channel aired a documentary about the Dirty Thirties, and the suffocating dust storms that pounded occupants of the Midwest during a drought that lasted for five years. The normal weather patterns were aggravated by a mentality that all land could and should be cultivated for profit. Wind picked up the loose soil in overworked fields.  The dust in the air blocked the sun, which causes a natural evaporation that fuels rain clouds.

Dust Storm in Cimarron County OK--Library of Congress photo

Dust Storm in Cimarron County OK--Library of Congress photo



It was soil specialist Hugh Bennett who convinced Congress to fund the forerunner of the Soil Conservation Service, as a dust storm approached Washington DC.  He dedicated his life to teaching farmers about practices like contour farming, which cut dust erosion by more than half.  Today no-till farming is the norm, a practice that leaves crop residue in the field, not only cutting wind erosion, but saving precious moisture as well.

Immense tragedy and hardship had to occur for millions of people before the nation could be convinced that our quest for “more, more, more” must be tempered by common sense and responsibility. The very good principles of soil and water conservation practiced today were born only of tough times. Through the years I’ve had many conversations with people who lived in the 30s.  They acknowledge the hard times, the doing without, the stories of people who lost their farms and their fears that they would join them.  But with the perspective of time, many of those people exhibit the truth that hard times didn’t make them bitter, but better–more resilient, less fearful, less dependent on material goods, more focused on their relationships with other people.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul writes to encourage a congregation torn by arguments, opposition, and apathy to the message they wanted to share–that Christ is a savior for all people.  He wrote the letter from prison, yet he told the Philippians that the hardships he faced had been for good.  Roman guards and prisoners had the chance to hear about Christ and see Paul’s faith in action.  Other Christians, knowing that Paul was prevented from spreading the gospel outside of prison, took up the responsibility.  And that little, struggling first century church–the first known to be established in Europe–through its hardships help nurture and feed the flame of Christianity throughout the centuries.

Worried about your stock portfolio this week?  The world economic crisis?  Global warming? Your health, your marriage, your family, your career? No one travels through this life without facing hard times.  The question is whether you let those hard times make you bitter or better.

Take the advice of the Apostle Paul for dealing with hardship:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”