Lately I have had this sinking feeling. It comes every night at 7 p.m. when I listen to the national news - unemployment is up, the stock market is down, and I surmise that my retirement account has shrunk, again. It feels like I'm on a boat out in deep water, miles from the shore, a storm has come up, the waves are breaking over the bow, and the boat is starting to sink. Any of you feel this way too?
Friends, despite all evidence to the contrary, we are going to be OK. We may, in fact, actually grow stronger as a result of this economic downturn. Ezekiel wrote, "Fire burns away dross." The stock market decline is a good reminder that true security is not found in a fat 401K. A retirement account can become a false god. Here are three strategies for continued confidence even in an economic downturn.
First, keep working. I have a 71-year-old friend who still works full time as a nurse at an Atlanta hospital. After work she often goes over to Stone Mountain Park, where she is training for the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon. Her comment on her 70th birthday: "I'm in an easier age bracket now; I should be able to medal." We were talking about 401Ks and the economy, when she said, "I'm thankful to have a job." She already has a medal in my book.
The Fourth Commandment says to "Remember the Sabbath." The emphasis has always been on keeping a day of rest, but this command could just as easily been be seen as a command to be productive the six other days each week. King Solomon wrote many proverbs on the benefits of work: "The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing. He who tills his land will have plenty of food. Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings." (Proverbs 20:4, 28:19, 22:29) The Bible teaches that work is a blessing, and those who do work well will be blessed. Worried about the economy? Keep working.
Second, there is strength in community. Remember the NBC sitcom that starred Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty? The show was called Golden Girls. It was about four senior citizens who shared a home in Miami. Rent was easier, food costs easier, and of course, it was easier to get up a card game. Pride divides, but humility brings people together. Many single retirees would benefit from the Golden Girls approach. There is strength in community.
The church needs to be a place where people can connect, where networking happens, and where help can be found. "Though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Worried about the economy? Team up.
Third, remember, God is real. And God has not forgotten you. Jesus said, "Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?' or ‘What will we drink?' or ‘What will we wear for clothing?' For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
We may be in a boat, sinking in the sea, but we are not alone. Jesus is sleeping in the stern. As we call out, Jesus rises, calms the storm, and asks, "Where is your faith?"
Jesus is with us still. Are you worried about the economy? Don't be. Instead, affirm with David, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," (Psalm 23:1). But let's be real. The Shepherd's message to the sheep may be, "Go to back to work," and, "By the way, carpool."
Rev. John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn and Mansfield UMCs, and may be reached at email@example.com.