The fluctuating gasoline prices lately are a concern to us all, but I am convinced that this, too, will pass. In the meantime, we can do what many of us are already doing. We can decide whom to blame – the store owners, the oil companies, the political party we don’t support – just as we always do when we face challenges in our country. I find myself remembering another time in which oil prices rose sharply, and I learned how not to handle the crisis. Let me tell you of a case study in panic and over-analysis.
The first OPEC oil embargo occurred in 1974, causing gasoline prices to soar so quickly and so drastically that many stores selling gasoline had to ration their small supplies. It was a frightening time, and dire Jeremiads floated here and there that the world’s scant stores of petroleum were all but exhausted. Do the math; that was forty-eight years ago, and we still have gasoline. It has just cost more lately.
At that time, I was serving a church near a university campus. I would go across each morning and drink coffee with the faculty members. The petroleum crisis was on every mind, and each person projected his own fears. It was a time of genuine anxiety, for gas prices had more than doubled and were climbing
One faculty member was the most pessimistic. He prophesied that we were facing Armageddon and that the world’s countries would destroy themselves in one gargantuan battle over those last few barrels of oil. Each day his prognostications were more dire and frightening and not only covered the oil crisis but encompassed the world economy, global warming, and other cataclysmic probabilities.
During that time of growing alarm, I sought in one Sunday morning sermon to offer hope and to reassure my congregation, of which Dr. Doom was a member, that God was in control and would bring us safely through that and every crisis. My text was from Jeremiah, verses in which the “weeping prophet” acknowledged that Jerusalem might fall to the hordes from Babylon but proclaimed that the future still belonged to God and that He would see His people through it. He declared “I bought a field in Anathoth from Hanamel, my cousin,” trusting God to keep his property valuable and believing that His people would someday return to their homeland.
Whereas many of my listeners were encouraged by the sermon, Dr. Doom was not. As he passed me on the way out of the church, he grabbed me forcefully by the lapel, literally “got in my face,” and protested, “I would remind you that Jerusalem did fall!”
Irony of ironies, over forty-something years after my fearful friend’s gloomy forecasts, we are still burning billions of gallons of petroleum, the world has not been destroyed in one earth-melting conflagration, and, radical market fluctuations notwithstanding, our national and world economies are quite strong.
What about my friend from back then, three months younger than I? Sadly, he died from a heart attack early in 1980. I can still see him, trudging along with furrowed brow and downcast head, seemingly drowning in imagined terror. None of his fearful imaginings, his alarm, or his tossing on his bed at night changed the future one iota. However his negative, fearful attitudes might have brought his own life to a premature close. Who can say?
Irony of ironies, he was an ordained minister and was more familiar with the scriptures than I. One of those verses says, “Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your life. God was in control in 1974, He still is in 2022, and He will be as long as we live and beyond.