“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice,” St Paul tells the Philippians. He goes on to say that he is “content in any circumstance.”
Before July 1, I was the Associate Pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Kokomo, Indiana. This is significant only because last December, Forbes.com named Kokomo, Indiana the third fastest-dying city in America. Kokomo, “The City of First’s” is the home of the first American gas-powered car, first carburetor, first push-button car radio, and first pneumatic tire. Since 1894, Kokomo has been a “car town.” Today the two major employers in town are Chrysler and Delphi, a subsidiary of General Motors, which manufactures mobile electronics, transportation components, and systems technology. The 80,000 people in the greater Kokomo area are feeling the pinch. When Delphi downsized at the end of last year several families from Grace UMC were directly impacted. My Staff Parish Chairperson lost his job after more than 25 years of service. Earlier this summer Delphi announced it was terminating the health and life insurance benefits of all retirees.
It’s not just Kokomo, Indiana. It is everywhere, USA (and really all around the world, as the economies of so many countries are dependent upon American imports and American tourist dollars). “Global financial crisis worst since 1929,” “Banks need more money to save mortgage crisis,” “Stock Market decline continues daily”: anxiety over recent economic news has all of us concerned about our economic health, both in our communities and in our families.
Money struggles are nothing new to many of us: Student loans, credit card interest, never-ending car payments, insurance payments and medical bills, and for some of us, feeding kids, outrageous daycare costs, mortgage payments; and it is nice to be able to get out every once in a while. According the Bureau of Labors and Statistics the average weekly earnings of a full-time employee is just over $600. Subtract taxes, insurance, and all of the above, and it doesn’t leave much. The December 2008 edition of Harper’s Index revealed startling statistics that 47% of Americans say they live “paycheck to paycheck.”
We concern; we wonder if we will ever escape the stack of bills. When will that pink slip be put on my desk? The future seems so unclear. Worry sometimes creeps upon us.
“Rejoice in the Lord always.” “Be content in every circumstance.” Easy for him to say, right? No way. He was in shipwrecks, beaten, rejected, imprisoned and awaiting certain death when he wrote that advice. It wasn’t any easier for St. Paul to be content in all circumstances than for us today. But by the time he wrote these words to the Philippians he had been though the storm. He had been there before.
That’s what we can learn. We have been here before. For the younger generation, our grandparents experienced a great depression. Our parents experienced the OPEC oil embargo and the soaring inflation of the 1970’s.
But this is the first time for many in my generation to experience such an economic crisis. It seems like poverty compared to the prosperity most of us have been accustomed to. But it isn’t.
It appears that every generation gets reminded of our need for divine grace.
At another point Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Our finances are pressed on every side, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed about our economic future, but we should not despair. Our bank accounts have suffered a beating, but we are not abandoned. God may use this financial crisis to reveal something to us, for Christ’s sake.
Perhaps like no other time in many of our lives, we need the assurance of God’s peace. Sure these are troubled times, but we have been here before. There is still hope for today. It is a great day to be alive. Rejoice! Life is at work in us.
Question: What can we do during times of financial stress?
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