The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jim Neal 

Pastor's Corner - Jan. 31, 2019

Tough times everywhere


January 31, 2019 | View PDF

“The fear of becoming a ‘has been’ keeps some people from becoming anything.” --Eric Hoffer

I had never heard of Mr. Eric Hoffer until one week while preparing a sermon for Sunday. I read this quote in a theological commentary and it captured my attention. It was used to show the frivolity and flighty experience of living in the world of novelty. Briefly defined as always talking and seeking new endeavors. (see Acts 17:21) Got anyone in mind when you read that statement … our world is full of those who seek new experiences at every turn; never placing down “roots” from which to draw the needed nutrients and ingredients to sustain a deep and abundant life.

Back to Mr. Hoffer. He was known as an American moral, social and political philosopher, who died at age 80 in 1983, but not before leading a rather profoundly unique life. He definitely did not have a fear of becoming a “has been” nor did he end up becoming a “nobody,” although he had every opportunity and excuse to do just so.

Born in the Bronx, N.Y., to immigrant parents from Imperial Germany, he could read both English and his parents’ native German by the age of 5. Eric lost his sight at age 7 and his memory for a time due to a fall he and his mother took down a flight of stairs. His mother never recovered and died shortly after the fall, so he was left blind and without the love of a mother at such a young age. Inexplicably, his sight returned at 15 and the fear of losing it again catapulted the young Master Hoffer into becoming a voracious reader.

If the loss of his mother was not enough, his father died when he was but a youth, leaving him without a parent and with only the paltry sum of $300 in insurance money with which to begin adulthood. He promptly bought a bus ticket to California, ending up spending about 10 years on skid row reading, writing and working at odd jobs. Eventually, he did what many “down and outers” did in those tough days during the early 1920s: He became a migrant worker following the crops up and down the lush fruitful “gold coasts” of California. During those days, in his own words, he divided his time between work, books and brothels.

Why do I tell you this story? Only to make the point that no one has the corner on the market of tough times and hard luck. No matter what life deals, we all have the wherewithall to “buck” the system -- to grasp the “golden ring” of opportunity and pull ourselves up from the “muck and mire” of certain defeat and discouragement. I am sure many reading these lines today could tell us stories that would “curl the hair” on the back of our necks or make all of our skin crawl; however, I doubt any would top the story of young Eric Hoffer.

There are so many fears available for us to grab a hold of and cling to with all of our might. There is the fear of failure or how about success, the fear of trying new things leaving us to live lives of quiet desperation, the fear of meeting new people or, of heaven sake, forbid talking to someone new. On and on they go, and you know what? The longer we think of them the bigger they get. Have you not heard it said that thoughts are like a tough piece of meat -- the longer you chew the bigger it gets? Fear is a normal human emotion that can plague anyone; however, we need only remember what the scripture assures us in 2 Timothy 1:7: [BEGIN ITAL]“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and sound mind.”[END ITAL]

Most phobias are [BEGIN ITAL]all in the mind.[END ITAL] You surely have heard it said that we become who and what we think about all day long. Perhaps we could look to our friend, the Apostle Paul, who gives great advice in Philippians 4:8: [BEGIN ITAL]“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.


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