“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …”— Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”

This has been a difficult week. It is so easy for us to take for granted the measure of freedom we have in the United States compared to so many other countries. We can still gather as believers, read Bibles and share the Gospel with others with minimal interference. For the most part, we can grow our own food, treat illnesses holistically with natural remedies and globally accepted treatment protocols. For the most part, we have the freedom to travel, to raise our children as we see fit, recognizing the best asset a child has is attentive, caring parents.

We can gather with others, speak our mind, agree to disagree, protect our own, care for others. The list of freedoms we enjoy is endless and easily taken for granted. And those freedoms we take for granted can be easily lost.

I envy the Amish. They are so removed from society and technology, so removed from global politics and national nonsense. Their conversation at the local market is about the weather and the crops and the Yoder family’s new baby. They aren’t chasing after the latest fashions or the newest mobile device. If they wear torn jeans, those tears were earned, not purchased. They’re not totally ignorant of the news of the day. It just takes a bit longer to get to them.

Giving a hat-tip to our simple-living rural friends, I thought it might help to consider some core values we should consider and establish as believers and homesteaders, values that can sustain us in these difficult times.

Before I start, remember the premise Solomon presents in Ecclesiastes: There is nothing new under the sun. Let’s remember that the King remains on the throne. God is sovereign. Nothing moves beyond His will, His plan, His purpose. So, what should we do?

Love God

Mark 12:30 says, “‘“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”’” (ESV).

Jesus reminds us of the command from the Old Testament. This is our primary endeavor in all things of life. The tragedies of life, the difficult times we all experience, the constant barrage of news and conspiracies and global wickedness can overtake our focus, distracting us from the primary objective to love God.

In difficult times, we must recognize how God richly blesses us. Above all, He covers us with His grace and mercy.

The first verse of the beautiful hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” goes like this:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Oh my, yes!

Love your neighbor

Jesus made this point as the second part of the greatest commandment: love your neighbor. Sometimes it is hard to be a good neighbor. Much of urban and suburban society is so hurried and scattered, there is little time to love our neighbor. In a rural setting, it seems to come easier, but not always.

I make a point to always wave. That little four-finger wave off the steering wheel to the passing vehicle on a narrow country road is pretty much a standard. You can always count on a wave from the person out on the tractor. But a wave is easy.

Helping a neighbor process a hog, catch a loose cow or put in a row of fence posts is good. But we are called to love our neighbor by rightly sharing the Gospel. A helping hand for a neighbor does them no good if they are doomed to eternal hell. The grace and mercy of God is too precious not to share.

Love your enemies

Across the globe, Christians are being persecuted. Many are suffering. Others are being granted their passport home, entering eternal glory. Of course, we pray for them, crying out to God that He would deliver them from the evil around them. But do we pray for their oppressors? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Do we love the enemies of God and God’s people? We should cry out to God on their behalf, that their eyes would be opened and their hearts would be softened to truth.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Maranatha! To God be the glory!