Is it well with your soul?

June 11, 2009

Back in September 2008 things in the United States seemed just fine. Although the country would be electing a new president on November 4, no one seemed to have a clue about the coming financial upheaval. Then, suddenly, we were told that Wall Street was in dire straights, and unless immediate action was taken, the world could plunge into an economic abyss.

America soon became familiar with the term “sub-prime lending.” Congress, reacting to cries of “The sky is falling,” hurriedly cobbled together a “bailout” of over $700 million for the good folks on Wall Street. Despite the greed and revelations of unconscionably-high salaries and benefits, all of a sudden we, the people, were told that our tax dollars were needed to prop up Wall Street.

The “sub-prime” meltdown of Wall Street carried over to banks, automakers, the insurance giant AIG and other industries. We were again told that our tax dollars were needed to prop up banks and automakers, or else the sky would resume falling. As a result, the United States government (that is supposed to be “us,” but does not feel like “us”—it feels more like “them”) now owns the majority interest in Chrysler. When a government takes over and runs a private industry, isn’t that an example of socialism?

Now, over a trillion dollars later, millions of Americans are struggling with loss of jobs, inability to make house payments and rising gas prices. All this while government laments that it can’t pay its bills. The complacency of September 2008, when most of us were feeling pretty confident about our financial security, demonstrates how fragile we are individually, and how fragile even the United State is when it comes to economics. No military on earth can bring America to her knees, yet unregulated greed run amok caused our country to have wobbly knees.

What lessons can be learned in the wake of our unexpected financial crisis? First, we need a national humility, not a national arrogance. The Scripture warns, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). Our government (both federal, and, for Laurie and me, in our home state of California) set the trend by living beyond its means. Resorting to deficit spending (i.e., spending money we don’t have by borrowing to pay our obligations) became a habit. The people of America have followed suit, with a minuscule amount of money being saved, and credit card and other debt increasing. The current financial crisis helps illustrate that trusting in mammon (money) is building a house on the sand, and instant gratification (i.e., buy now, pay later) can lull you to sleep until you are rudely awakened when the bill arrives.

Second, we are not promised tomorrow. It is always possible that by tomorrow what we’ve labored for will be gone, and it’s possible that by tomorrow we will be gone. Are we prepared today for the uncertainties of tomorrow? When Dwight Moody was on a boat caught in a violent storm on Lake Michigan far from shore, others on the boat were below deck praying earnestly for survival. One man noticed Moody was not present, and, thinking he might have been washed overboard, hurried above deck to find Moody sitting on the bow, riding the swells as the boat rocked back and forth. The man shouted out to Moody, “why aren’t you below praying with us?” Moody, with a contented grin, replied, “I’m prayed up.”

There is a time for prayer, a time for preparation, and a time to say, “it’s in God’s hands—I’m prepared and prayed up.” Are you prayed up and prepared for whatever tomorrow brings? It has been said that we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. David summarized how we can be ready for whatever comes our way: “Commit your way to the LORD. Trust also in Him and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5). If you’ve committed everything to the Lord, then you have nothing to lose, and your heart is ready to sing those words penned by Hortio Spafford, “Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”