(This is not intended to be an in depth study of this period but merely a brief description of a terrible time in long sad history)
I have begun to read a book on the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s.
The condition of Ireland was very bad even before the famine began.
The only resource the people had, was the land and the easiest thing to grow on the wide variety of soil types in Ireland, was the potato of which they only grew one variety.
Irish manufacturing was being overwhelmed by cheap English imports. The fishing industry was so poor they could not afford the salt for preserving the fish.
Most poor Irish were tenants at the will and whim of their landlords. Any money they spent to improve their land benefited the land owners rather than themselves.
Families to help their children gave them portions of their land and the result was small parcels of land which were to all intents and purposes unviable. To squeeze more rents landlords used middlemen to raise more and more rent from smaller and smaller pieces of land.
Some people rented many such portions but they were so far apart from each other that utilizing them profitably was nigh impossible.
The worst problem was what was called “the hanging gale”, these meant payments of rents were suspended for six months or so by the landlord and very often when the time came the tenant had no money to pay it and his farm was taken off him.
With the failure of the potato crop, the British government brought maize from the United States to feed those facing starvation. Unfortunately it was slow getting to them. The majority of poor people in Ireland subsisted on Potatoes not bread. There was virtually no capability to mill the maize. Only those suffering directly as result of the potato blight were entitled to the meager government help. No allowance was made for the grinding poverty already rampant.
Most of the Government’s other measures were totally inadequate.
They had tried to treat the potato tuber chemically so that it could be used but nothing worked and they so the whole potato crop ended up as a slimy mush.
Another controversy was that Ireland still exported food while its people starved to death this caused more bitterness ever after.
This is to be balanced by the fact that most of the common people had no idea how or means to cook the foodstuffs that Ireland exported, living conditions were so primitive at the time. Pamphlets had to be distributed to show how to cook the Maize that was distributed.
The result of all this was the worst famine in Irish history, deaths and mass immigration to the U.S. and other parts of the world and certainly Australia.
While I have no sympathy with Roman Catholicism and its bigotry and superstition, I would not wish this terrible suffering on anyone.
I myself have an Irish ancestor born in 1825, who may have fled to Australia because of this famine.
The estimates as to the death toll vary considerably but may be about one million, both from starvation or disease.
Starvation and the diseases which attend it are still common, especially in Africa. We who have more than enough to eat and waste so much cannot conceive of such terrible want.
The Christian should always be concerned for the physical well-being of others. We should do what we can to help others in dire circumstances.
However well fed and healthy the body, it will fail at last and perish, the human soul will not, it is a greater concern that the soul of man be delivered from the deserved consequences of its sin and brought to a saving knowledge and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian’s sustenance is by feeding on Christ by faith and The Word of God.These two things are inseparable and support our spiritual health and growth. Faith comes by the Word and grows as a result.
The worst thing that can happen is there to be a famine of preaching and reading the Word. We become stunted and gaunt if we do not receive constant supplies of our spiritual food.
This can happen when the Word is processed to become more palatable and becomes akin to white bread, we can live on it but a great deal of its nutritional value is lost.
Worst still when the Word of God is not read or preached at all and we starve spiritually.
We can also starve ourselves by neglecting reading the Bible and sound and helpful books.
We become fastidious or unable to digest wholesome food and subsist on the equivalent of “junk food”.
We must avail ourselves of God’s provision for us while we have it because the day may come when it will be in short supply.
By study of the Word and prayer we draw near to He who is the Bread of life.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Are we as believers hungry for Christ the Bread of Life?
A Reasonable Conclusion!
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
If Jesus had compassion on them, the chances are if YOU come to Him He will have compassion on you!