No one has put a name to it yet, so I will: The Great Recession.
Perhaps like you, my family and I are in worse shape than we’ve ever been. I’ve heard these descriptions from ground level: “Business is off forty percent, and after I pay my rent and employees, I have no money left.” “Tomorrow is my last day of work—our whole office is being shut down.” “We lost our house, and we’re moving to an apartment.” “We just got a pay cut and we’ll have to take two unpaid days off a month.” “My job is up for review in two weeks, and the agency is cutting everywhere.”
I hate it—yet I don’t. The recession is the painful cure for the overextended materialistic binge our whole country, and much of the world, has been on for too long. It was inevitable. And, sadly, we needed it. My condolences to those of us who behaved themselves and did not overextend, yet still have to pay.
What we do with all this is not inevitable. Though financial choices are endless, one choice—usually overlooked—stands out with singular clarity. And it addresses the core issue of why we collectively got into this mess in the first place: the condition of our souls.
Poverty of soul is the starting point for nearly everything we do that’s bad for us, that overextends our ability to pay, that causes regret. When we’re willing to walk the path, poverty of the pocketbook is a road to richness of soul.
The bad economy offers us deals for the soul that we probably don’t like—but are good for us. Here are three:
First, the painful truth is that the worst thing for our material happiness is often the best thing for our souls. When wealth or comfort or security is ripped out of our hands, we are forced to look elsewhere. Remember God? Now is the time to pay more attention to him, maybe take him seriously. Check out his book, it’s got tons of promises.
Second, desperation leads to spiritual hunger. Spiritual hunger is the key factor in drawing close to God. Imagine a passionate, joyful, intimate connection with God—one in which prayers get answered because you’re praying in line with how he leads, one in which your very life transforms. Yes, it is possible.
Third, hard times force us to do what we probably should have done earlier: simplify our lives. A simplified life is essential to a rich soul. We can still be happy in a small house. A car purchase does not have to be new. Clothes can last at least a year longer. Eating at home is not only cheaper but often healthier than eating out. And that’s just the stuff we buy. If we stop trying to do everything that crowds every minute of our lives, we just might find enough time to live, to practice being alive and connected to God, rather than always do, do, do.
The Great Recession is a painful medicine—one we’ll be wise to take.