Why the Recession is a Blessing and Not a Curse
As I came into work this morning I had a brief conversation with the building guard about work. I learned that he used to be in middle management and he learned that I used to be a teacher. He told me that just a few years ago he was doing pretty well, financially speaking. But now he has to do something that ‘pays the bills’ but he otherwise would not be doing this type of work. It got me to thinking about how almost everyone I meet is doing something different from what they were doing before the economy went sour. For those who are still working, many are in a different field altogether and many have received a ‘demotion’ of sorts; from real estate broker making $30K per deal to receptionist making $30K per year. There are countless examples of this all over the country. Everyone has been affected by this great ’employment shift’ in one way or another. Unfortunately this means that there are those who have received the most unpleasant demotion to unemployment. And it is quite a humbling thing to not be able to go to work in the morning.
But there is a silver lining of sorts to all of this. In fact I would even use the word “blessing.” Blessing you say? Yes, blessing. As I mentioned before, there are many people who lost their higher-paying jobs for lower-paying ones and those who have not been able to bring a paycheck at all. But would if our higher paying jobs were keeping us from enjoying the things that matter most? Would if our busy schedules did not allow us the time to slow down and think about our lives, our families, our pets, our purpose in life? Nothing shakes us up more than a pink slip. And nothing reveals more what we trust in the most when the bank account runs dry. I must say for me and my family this has been a true test of faith in God’s providence (having to change jobs). But it has also been a time of budget stretching, relying more on one another, communicating more keenly, praying incessantly, holding my son a little tighter, and cherishing greater the things that I really care about.
It’s been said that “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” We tend to only do that which is absolutely necessary and then we rise or fall to the occasion. It’s really hard to always be challenging ourselves. We prefer to do what comes easiest. Circumstances beyond our control so often dictate our next move in life. And so when things get tough we are truly put to the test; to see what’s inside. There is an old proverb that is very… well.. wise.
Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God. (ESV)
This is my dilemma. It’s so easy to take things for granted when I am always being cared for. In fact, not only do I take them for granted but I even demand them when they are taken from me as if I was owed them. I am not owed a wife, children, a place to sleep, stylish clothing, health, employment, material wealth, etc. and yet all these things I have been given. Wealth? Really? Yes. Even the poorest family in the U.S. has exponentially more than much of the rest of the world. We (Americans) are something like 5% of the world’s population and consume somewhere around 40% of the world’s resources (to quote my old Poly Sci Prof). However, according to Agur (the one who wrote the proverb) this is a curse rather than a blessing. If we have all that we need and more we are apt to forget to be thankful and eventually become lovers of stuff rather than lovers of God and people. And yet if we go without for too long we are prone to curse the One who gave us life.
It’s interesting to me how much we love our futures (for some it is literally futures) more than we love our todays. Feed me with the food that is needful for me. Can you imagine if you had no 401K, no retirement fund, no social security, nothing in your savings except for what’s currently in your checking? And then everyday you check your balance and it starts at zero again until you are given your daily wage. That kind of life is so foreign to the American way we view economics. In fact, we would say how foolish that kind of system would be. And yet that is exactly what Agur prayed for; his daily bread– no more– no less. There is something profound about it. And scary too. But if everyday you were given exactly what you needed then maybe you wouldn’t worry so much about all of the bad things that could happen and focused more on what did happen. You worked. You ate. You slept. You have enough. That would be something.
Recession. A curse or a blessing?