Oct 30 2008
The economy is crumbling. Investments are withering. Fear is mounting. But you don’t have to sit there feeling helpless—there is something you can do to turn our country’s financial crisis into a life-changing investment opportunity.
Financial Crises Trigger Relational Crisis
Escalating economic pressures are triggering an intense emotional upheaval in our nation. According to an October 21 CNN poll, “Seventy-five percent of [Americans] surveyed said they are angry about the way things are going. Two-thirds of those questioned said they’re scared about the way things are going and three in four said the current conditions in the country are stressing them out.”
The anger, fear, and stress expressed by most Americans are all ingredients for serious conflict, and the tidal wave of emotion is already taking a huge toll on human relationships—some of it deadly. On October 14, the Associated Press reported a surge in financial-related suicides and murders: “In Los Angeles last week, a former money manager fatally shot his wife, three sons and his mother-in-law before killing himself. In Ocala, Fla., Roland Gore shot his wife and then set fire to the couple’s home, which had been in foreclosure, before killing himself…. Mental health hotlines are jammed, counseling services are in high demand, and domestic violence shelters are full.”
Financial pressures, like any stressful situation, squeeze the human heart. What comes out when our hearts are squeezed might surprise us, though it shouldn’t. This current crisis reveals hidden fears and relational weaknesses, and it also triggers behavior we normally suppress. All too often we take these fears and frustrations out on those closest to us, lashing out in anger and blaming them for our struggles. Before we know it, we have escalated a financial crisis into a relational crisis.
For most of us, that relational crisis won’t be as dramatic as the headlines above, but the crisis is no less real. Hopelessness sets in as retirement plans are in shambles. A declining 401k might trigger an intense argument in the kitchen when a husband clamps down on spending and his wife throws his sports car payment in his face. Family strife increases as children moan over a canceled vacation or fewer indulgent gifts. Left unchecked, these tensions can turn a home into a battleground and eventually spiral into an “I can’t take it anymore” divorce.
That’s not all. Business slowdowns can create similar pressures in the workplace, triggering layoffs, contract defaults, and increased litigation. As a business friend observed to me yesterday, “When the economy is bad, drama is everywhere.” Churches and ministries are also reporting upheavals, including staff layoffs and lawsuits between members whose business relationships are unraveling in step with the economy. All these tensions find their way back into our homes and families and expand the likelihood of relational crisis.
Practical Advice for the Christian: Prime Time to Invest in People
Whatever you do to alter your family budget or investment portfolio, let me encourage you to look beyond your own situation during this crisis. This is an ideal time to invest aggressively in the lives of the people around you. A listening ear, an encouraging word, and a little wise counsel can literally save a marriage from divorce, a co-worker from being fired, a church from splitting, or a business relationship from exploding into litigation.
I would like to offer three practical ways you can invest in other people during a time of crisis.
First, don’t panic or give in to fear. You won’t be a help to others if you are bound by fear yourself. So where are you placing your trust? How can you demonstrate God’s work in your life in the midst of this crisis? God promises repeatedly to meet all of your needs (e.g., Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:19). Think often about these promises yourself and share them with others, so that together you can say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).
And if, as you reflect on your own heart and response to the crisis thus far, you realize that you have given in to fear and have inappropriately pointed the blame at others, be quick to confess that to God and to others, practicing the principles of peacemaking in your own life. (If it has been a while, visit www.Peacemaker.net to refresh your memory of the “Four G’s” and other conflict resolution principles relevant to times like these.)
Second, be salt and light by intentionally reaching out to those around you. Few people in our nation are untouched by the situation. I am absolutely certain that you are surrounded by hurting people who are crying out for answers, though they may not be quick to admit it. Notice worried looks and gloomy words. Don’t be brushed aside by a statement like, “Oh, I’m fine.” Imitate Jesus: gently press in, ask personal questions, listen patiently, buy lunch, and show you care. As people open up, draw them out slowly, avoid simplistic answers, share honestly and openly of your own struggles, search together for wise choices and changes, and pray for those in need.
Third, give hope and guidance through the gospel. Regardless of what happens with the $700 billion the government is using to try to turn the situation around, remember that the ultimate “bail out” has already taken place. Like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18, we owed a debt that we couldn’t possibly pay. That debt was paid by another: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Jesus’ death and resurrection tore down the barrier between us and God, opening a pipeline from heaven to meet all our needs. He also exposed the futility of blaming others for our struggles; he modeled the humility, kindness, and forgiveness that we can imitate as we turn financial tensions into opportunities to build deeper relationships. This is our only hope as we face a falling economy and relational crises.
So no matter what the economy does in the days ahead, your investment in the relationships around you can change others’ lives forever. There is no stock on Wall Street that can deliver such a generous, secure, and eternally compounding return.
Ken Sande is the president of Peacemaker Ministries and author of numerous resources on conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Please visit www.Peacemaker.net for principles on conflict resolution and personal reconciliation, as well as information on educational resources, hands-on training, and building a culture of peace in your church.