Monday, December 22, 2008

Lessons Learned In The History of Economic Crisis

There was a chill in the air on that dreary morning of March 4, 1933. The weather was, in so many ways, a reflection of the state of our nation at the time. A wave of economic difficulty that started with the 1929 stock market crash, known notoriously as “Black Tuesday,” provided a downward spiral that saw our proud nation leave the prosperity of the 1920’s far behind. As our country anticipated the inauguration of its 32nd president, we found ourselves at the lowest point of the Great Depression. Over 13,000,000 were unemployed, few banks remained, and little hope of economic revitalization could be seen.

It was this backdrop that inspired President Roosevelt to offer a depressed nation the following words:

“ I AM certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Roosevelt’s inaugural words have endured far beyond the economic challenges of the great depression. They echo the timeless truth from God’s Word written centuries prior by the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

In the coming days our nation will witness the inauguration of our 44th president, and once again we find ourselves in a period of economic challenge and uncertainty. While it is certainly true that our current financial crisis is nowhere near the severity of that which our nation faced during the great depression, the pressures and anxiety are very real. A quick look at a dwindling 401K or the very real possibility of corporate “downsizing” bring a very natural response of fear. It is in this context that the words of FDR, and more important the truth of scripture ring true: do not be afraid, because there is nothing to fear.

Without proper context these can seem like mere words. And while the beginning of President Roosevelt’s inaugural address is that which is most quoted, it is the end of his speech that offers the lens through which a clear direction can be clearly seen:

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.

We can be confident that as we seek the wisdom and blessing of God that He will both guide us and provide for us. History is replete with evidences of God’s continual hand upon those who place their trust in Him. Embracing the very real truth that God both keeps His promises and has promised that, as we trust in Him, He will meet our needs is the perfect prescription for the stress our current economy brings.

For most of us the Great Depression is something we know of only through history books and stories shared by loved ones many years our senior. The truth remains that our nation has endured far greater pain before, and God’s people have walked through much larger difficulties in the past. Yet the words of Isaiah have always been true….. and continue to be true today!

Many economists now predict that our economy should begin to improve during the 2nd quarter of 2009. Some would offer that the journey back to financial strength will require much more time. A few would have us believe that we can never recover. For the child of God there is the confidence that, regardless of the economists prediction, we can stand firm in the timeless truth of God’s enduring promises. We truly have nothing to fear.

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