As the worldwide financial crisis develops, one word keeps recurring: PANIC. If not stated that strongly, the emotion millions now feel is variously called fear, anxiety, or worry, and it comes with scary questions: What is going to happen to me and my family? How will I have enough money to live on? Where will I live? Is my job safe? Can I get another job? What about retirement? Is all hope gone with the wind? Without knowing the answer to any of those questions, I do know that we can live without fear. Indeed, we can have peace in the midst of this ferocious storm. How?
Reflect upon the past
How has my foolishness contributed to my current fear? Have I lived beyond my income, acquiring more than I could afford, going into debt, failing to save? Do I dwell in a house that is too big and too expensive? Am I driving a luxury car, wearing designer clothes, and surrounded by costly technical toys? Have I been eating out at restaurants too often, or taking vacations I can’t really afford? Where have I set my hope for happiness and security? On my 401(K) plan? The fortunes of my company? My investments? Have I neglected my family in the race to make money? In my self-indulgence, have I been like the millions of others who have failed to remember the poor? What about God? Where has He been on my list of priorities? Have I been “too busy” to read the Bible, pray, or go to church? In short: What have I placed at the center of my life? Possessions, power, prestige, and pleasure, or people? Most of all, Have I sought happiness and fulfillment in this transitory world, or in knowing the Maker of the universe?
Rely on God
Now is the time to turn our trust from bankers, stock brokers, CEOs, union bosses, politicians (above all!), and anything that they can promise or provide. Nor can we put confidence in ourselves and our own intelligent choices – look where that has gotten us! There is one upon whom we can rely, however: God. He has made the universe and everything in it, including us. He cares enough for us to have sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and rise from the dead in order that our folly, faults, and failures may be forgiven, and we can have friendship with God again. Through Jesus, God the Father has told us to pray for our “daily bread,” has asserted that He knows our needs before we even ask, and has promised to provide for those who trust in Him (see Matthew 6:19-34, for example). We are of more value than the birds and the grass of the field, over which He looks with watchful eye, and He will surely care for us as well as He cares for these little creatures. He has ordered us to be content with what we have, and not to be greedy for more, but to believe His promise never to fail us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Many times in the Bible, God has told us not to be afraid, but to trust in His loving care for those who love and believe in Him (See Psalms 23, 34, 37; Philippians 4:6-7; etc.).
Re-order our priorities
But there are conditions to meet if we are going to enjoying peace with God and serenity in the middle of financial turmoil. Jesus says that we should “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [material] things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). That means to put God first in our lives – to read His Word daily, pray to Him often, worship Him in church, and follow His commands, relying on His strength to do so. Conversely, we are urged not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break in and steal, but to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven, where nothing can touch them. How? By giving to the poor and to the work of the church and by placing our trust not in our own financial assets but in God’s provision. We must have a “single” eye, focused on God’s Word and His will, not on the things of this world. Even as we work to provide for ourselves and our families, we should do so as unto God, serving Him as our ultimate Boss, seeking to glorify Him and to benefit others, not just to make a living (See Ephesians 4:28; 6:5-9). Since we can’t be loyal to more than one master at a time, Jesus warns us to serve God and not Mammon (the god of wealth and all it represents). Now is the time to spend more time in Bible reading, meditation, and prayer, not less, as we listen not only to God’s promises to provide for us but also to His commands. Maybe we need to turn off the TV and spend time with our family members and housemates; give away some of the stuff that fills our storage rooms; eat simply, and at home.
Reach out to others
Remember, you aren’t the only one in this mess! Literally billions of people are being stunned by daily news of default, bankruptcy, market declines, and lost jobs. This would be a good time to extend a helping hand to those in greater need than we are; to ask our neighbors how they are doing; to pray for the poor, the confused, the desperate.
Yes, I said, Rejoice! There’s something good about times like these. People come together. Old values are revived. The really important things return to their proper place in our hearts. Most of all, God has “room” to work, now that we really need Him. When the Israelites were between Pharaoh’s chariots and the Red Sea, God told them to stand aside and watch Him work a mighty deliverance for them. In fact, most of the miracles in the Bible took place when people were at their wits’ end, with no resources, nothing to turn to – except God! That’s when He has a chance to demonstrate both His power and His love. Maybe something good will come out of this awful Crash of 2008.