Monday, March 09, 2009

The Family Upside Of The Financial Downturn

You would have to be living in a cave somewhere not to be aware of what is happening to our economy. Come to think of it, at this rate, that’s where we may all wind up. I know I shouldn’t be making light of this situation we find ourselves in. For many it is excruciating and for most of us it is just plain old anxiety producing. As I have explained before I don’t tend to naturally be an optimist. My personality tends to see the gloomy side of things. I am learning better ways of living but that is how I have tended to look at things in the past. Old habits don’t change fast and I am a particularly slow learner. So I have struggled lately.

Someone said that when facing our fears it is best to go ahead and identify what we actually may be afraid of. This forces us to face the dreaded boogey man lurking in the shadows head on. I am heavily invested in the stock market, as is our foundation, so this means that I may have to change plans that I had made and counted upon. I may have to do some things that I didn’t necessarily envision doing because of the economy. We may need to limit quite a bit what we can do for our grown kids or grandkids. It may limit what we can do as a foundation for individuals and organizations that are helping families. This may mean that after not dealing with the chaos caused by inflation for decades we may all have to face that again. It may mean a lot of things that are not comfortable or pleasant to think about if they come to pass.

Okay, so I got that out. What “good” can possibly come to us in this climate where many of us have seen half of our investments, 401(k)s or retirement savings evaporate in just a few weeks, when others have lost jobs and still others are facing the possibility of losing their jobs. What good can come out of this for our families? I have come up with some ideas – and believe me, this is for my perspective first; if this helps you at all, then have at it, but as that old African-American spiritual goes, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

First, remember 9/11 when we were all much more prayerful? I remember leading the previously irreligious in my office building and in our neighborhood in prayer that they enthusiastically participated in! I often led my kids in fervent, heartfelt intercession for our country, the families who lost loved ones, wisdom for our president and leaders in responding, and for Christ-followers to offer hope to our fearful and anxious nation. What happened to that? Soon churches were not packed any more, our politicians were finger pointing again and we were neglecting to lead our families in prayer. This financial crisis is another opportunity to take the lead in our homes in praying for wisdom for our leaders, who in my humble opinion, are all in desperate need of God’s wisdom in solving the problems that we as a nation face today. This prayer for political leaders is a special charge to us as MEN. (1 Timothy 2:8)

Second, this is a golden opportunity to be a true community among our fellow brothers in Christ. I have helped start and lead a couple of groups of men who have experienced marriage difficulties, divorce, job loss, teen rebellion and family conflict. I know this economy we are in now gives us all a greater opportunity “to bear each others burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) I also realize that we men don’t naturally gravitate towards transparency with each other but times like these demand that we don’t try to “do life” alone! I believe the challenges I have faced this past year would have driven me to deep discouragement if it weren’t for my special band of brothers standing with me.

Third, this national economic downturn can really strike a blow against “the spirit of entitlement.” This attitude that we in America deserve more and more has grown up like a choking vine around our families. How can the spirit of entitlement be defeated? First, by accepting the fact that we can’t have this or that just because someone else does. It is defeated when we begin to learn delayed gratification. It is defeated when we practice contentment and gratitude. (1 Timothy 6:6-10) All of these lessons are helped when for practical financial reasons we are “forced” to learn them for our own emotional and financial good. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have learned thy word.” (Psalm 119:67)

Fourth, our current situation can foster a greater family interdependence and simplicity. I know personally I have not done as well as I should have as a parent in expecting our kids to help out around the house and the yard. This downturn compels us to teach them to help out more as we make the necessary cuts to our spending. We won’t be eating out as much. Cool. That means we can make more family meals and the kids can help out occasionally. They can’t do all the sports, camps or activities as before. Cool. This means we need to selectively choose how we spend our time and we can slow this crazy pace down. We can begin to enjoy doing more things together while less frantically racing about in different directions.

Fifth, the values that the Great Depression generation learned would be helpful for us to learn in this generation. I used to scoff at hearing stories of money hidden under mattresses but our that generation painfully learned first hand what can happen when we place our trust in the government or the stock market or anything but in God, one another and plain old hard work. We have trusted the government to give us more and more, the stock market to make us rich and secure, and our credit cards to give us what we want when we want it. It appears the party’s over. This can be a time for us to learn those hard, but wisdom-producing, lessons our grandparents and great-grandparents learned some 80 years ago. Just as it worked for the good of their character it can do the same for our families. (Romans 8:28-29)

So how’s that for starters? I know there’s more. But this gives us something to think about next time we hear the market has lost another few percentage points. Anybody can dwell on the negative. Any donkey can kick down a fence but it takes a skilled man to be able to build it. And that “skilled man” is you and I. This will take us harnessing our “father power” to build up our faith and our families through the divinely appointed “opportunities” (I will choose not to call them just problems) that this current economic downturn provides.
“For you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

P.S. Maybe this would be a good time to comment and tell other men what you are learning on your journey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wise words, Jamie! Times are very tough for many people and scary for most people as jobs disappear, net worths plummet and homes are forclosed upon. Government is not the answer as, among other problems, people now see that there is precious little stimulus in the $787B Stimulus Plan. God alone provides the answers we desperatly need.