Thursday, October 09, 2008

God and the Current Economic Crisis

The struggling global economy is both out of my control and beyond my understanding. This makes it doubly troublesome for me. There are some things I can understand and yet are out of my control. I understand what inoperable cancer is and humanly I can do nothing about it. My understanding makes the thing for me seem a bit easier to handle. But since I’m not a global economist the fact that it’s both out of my control and I am vastly ignorant about it tempts me to fear and despair. What can I do?

I’ve been in situations like this before in the sense of being both unable to understand something and unable to affect the situation. Like being with someone I love who is dying, such as my mother a few years ago and my father some years before that. And, I lost a son many years ago. To be honest, and I do not mean to trivialize the present moment or minimalize its effect on people, I’d gladly go through an economic depression if only I could have my son David back with me. In fact, this week I’ve talked with some friends of mine who are, as I write, fighting issues of physical life and death. For them the economic situation is not their first area of concern.

Thinking like this puts some things in perspective for me. I have spent the last 38 years of my life learning what it means to place my trust in God and not in outward circumstances. I’m not saying this is easy. But note that, if you are a follower of Jesus, you see this all over the Scriptures, from Israel wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, to the prophets telling Israel to trust in God and worship Him only when they are in Babylonian captivity, to the disciples freaking out in the boat during the storm on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus is sleeping, to the apostle Paul telling us that there’s a way to live this life and be content in all circumstances. Can I say that again? ALL circumstances. Is that possible? If so, that would be freedom!

I say it is possible. The alternative for me would be that my faith in God is not real. From this faith-in-God perspective the current declining economic circumstances test me. I cannot believe that my God-faith is supposed to go up and down with the global economy or anything for that matter. If it does, this tells me something about where I’m really placing my trust.

Let me try to be clearer about this. I say with my mind ”I trust in God.” The arena where such trust is placed is: ”in all circumstances.” Intellectually I believe in the God who, as Genesis 1:1 says, created the heavens and the earth by just uttering a word. Could such a God be trusted in today? Of course. But I need this truth to descend from my mind into my heart so that it becomes an experiential reality. Another way of saying this is: I want to “know” God in the sense of experiential immediacy, and not simply as an intellectual belief or theory that only actually works when things are going well for me.

I believe God exists and that we can trust God today. For what? That God will repair the global economy? I don’t think so. What, then, can God be trusted to do if we rely on him? I understand the answers as follows. Put your trust in God and you can be sure that God will be with you in all circumstances, even in the valley of the shadow of death. You can be sure that God will love you. You can be sure that God will morph you into greater and greater Christlikeness. You can be sure that God will free you from the love of Money and captivate you by the real treasures of heaven (read Matthew chapters 5-7 for what this means). You can be sure that God will want to use you to help set people free from oppression, to include the oppression of poverty. You can be sure that God will free you and free others from all social hierarchizing that rank-orders humanity in terms of rich and poor, popular and unpopular, loved and despised. In short, God will reveal his beautiful Kingdom to you and make you fit for that Kingdom and work through you to influence others into that Kingdom. Jesus said that his Kingdom was not of this world. Jesus has not come to repair existing earthly kingdoms but to bring in the Kingdom of God.

As that happens, the values of this world we live in will be turned upside-down. We will experience his Kingdom coming now, on earth, as it is in heaven, not completely so, but as a taste of heavenly realities. The problem is not the economy. The problem is us and what is of ultimate concern to us. I’m choosing the place my trust in God. Please pray that I do so, as I will pray for you also.