Persistent confidence in Christ can ease America's sagging mood

I am confident. Repeat after me: I am CONFIDENT! OK, that helps… for a while. Then we start over again.

In Christ, it's important to rest in the knowledge that we can be confident about today, the future and in every situation. As human beings, though, emotions often run us ragged and moods can change our outlook in a second.

As the hot weeks of summer settle in and we're looking for some relief from reality through vacation and family time, there is no escaping the fact that a lack of confidence is now one of our country's biggest problems.

The drumbeat of recession and shock-and-awe of the collapse of housing and financial markets caused us to realize that things on this earth are often not as they appear. That which we trust can change in a brief moment.  We've experienced it and it makes us anxious.

This is not new, of course. In the late 1970s President Jimmy Carter tried to rally the nation with his famous "Malaise Speech." In those days of double digit interest rates, inflation and gas lines it was determined that our country needed an inspiring speech to rouse the public, to bring citizens out of their fog and funk. While his emphasis was on the looming energy crisis, the script began well.

Carter detailed the problems and despite his non-inspiring delivery, he explained the basic issue well. Americans were feeling worn out, tired and lethargic… creating a threat that could only get worse:

"The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation."

He added: "The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

"The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people... Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations…We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own."


Packing it in
If he had stopped with that, or shifted gears to a huge vision for American victory over malaise, inspiring confidence in his words, the results could have been different.

Instead, Carter offered his grand solutions including:

"I'm asking you for your good and for your Nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense—I tell you it is an act of patriotism."

I'm surprised he didn't ask us to floss more often. And I bet the nasty OPEC cartel members were shaking in their sandals over such a threat of unified carpooling.

There were also plenty of Carter comments on imposing more taxes on oil companies, getting off of foreign energy… the usual. Same thing leaders have been saying since the Nixon era. Sound familiar?


The button solution
Earlier in the same decade, President Gerald Ford also mirrored the '70s mood by coming up with a hot way to whip inflation. We would all wear "Whip Inflation Now!" buttons. That didn't work either.

All of that brought us stronger leadership with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, though it was a long slog getting the nation focused and back on track.

He made mistakes, too, and Congress went back to big spending ways but we regained confidence, thank God.

Now our nation is at a much more crucial point. If there's one thing we've gotten real good at, it's finding ways to stay stuck in a rut. In that respect, Jimmy Carter was right.

Now President Barack Obama and Republican challengers are again recognizing the issue, but their ways of dealing with our problems are dramatically different.

We have been in this beaten-up mood for years and it's going to take lots of action—and especially prayer—to pull ourselves out of it.


Confident leadership
Too often what we're hearing in today's solutions is the same thing we can pull out of the archives from years ago. It doesn't help when our current president issues statements about "not being sure" if the latest sluggish employment numbers are a "fluke or a trend." Americans prefer leaders who are themselves confident, acting in a balanced, humble manner.

Until we have more of that, we can expect more malaise.

Meantime, I'm going back to the Bible, doing a summer study of fighting fears, putting on spiritual armor to fight Satan's plans and praying God will give me the strength to remain confident each day, in spite of what's going on in the news.

I keep thinking of Andre Crouch's lyrics:

"I've got confidence God is gonna see me through…"


Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 6 to 9 a.m., and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. E-mail: mark@marklarson.com.


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Published, July 2011