Economic recession brings with it very significant personal challenges. While economists consider the macroeconomic aspects of recessions like manufacturing, investing and other categories measured by statistics, ordinary people wrestle with day-to-day issues such as income, expenses and peace of mind.
Because of the pressures that lie behind the numbers reported in the media, many people become victims of recession-induced stress and become statistics of another sort. Careful analysis will reveal that rates of substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide all increase during tough economic times. Crisis hotlines have been overwhelmed by calls from families that are hurting emotionally due to financial stress. Recovery of the spirit can take much longer than recovery of the economy. That is why many people reconsider the role of faith in their lives during times like these.
Of course people must avoid allowing the faith option and some of the gimmicks that can accompany faith strategies to become an alternative to common sense strategies for beating a recession. When hard times arrive, people are much more vulnerable to religious alchemy and the likelihood of becoming prey to spiritual lottery ticket schemes increases. But a connection with an authentic faith experience can help people survive and even defeat the most difficult circumstances.
One characteristic of such a faith experience is the discovery of self worth and personal value apart from the value of one’s possessions. Because our consumer culture is so pervasive, it has convinced too many that our personal value is dependent upon the value of the things that we own. During a recession, the value of our possessions will decrease as will our purchasing power. Finding faith should mean discovering one’s intrinsic value as a created human being that exists separate and apart from the appraised value of our homes or our ability to purchase items that bear the proper logo on them. Such a perspective protects people of faith from the temptation to conclude that all has been lost because money or things have been lost.
This discovery also leads to a greater appreciation for the value of those relationships that we have and that remain during recessions. People whose faith deepens during recessions should find more joy and meaning in their relationships since their possessions are no longer as primary as they once were. Holidays and special occasions can regain their original meaning and purposes and creative expression among friends and family can replace the bestowing of gifts that had become substitutes for genuine expressions of appreciation and love. Having lost the ability to use our credit cards to buy more stuff can be a blessing that forces us to become more human.
Discovering faith during recessions can also have benefits after the recession is over. No recession lasts forever. And after jobs have been regained, houses begin to rise in value, credit is restored and life begins to become much more pleasant, the lessons learned during recessions can become the framework for the post recession lifestyle. Living within our means, appreciating the value of ourselves and one another, having realistic and redemptive priorities are all products of authentic faith encounters. If we master those disciplines during recession, we will be healthier after recessions and our faith will have proven to be an investment rather than an escape.
Perhaps that is what one poet meant when he said, “faith is the victory that overcomes the world.”