Such A Time As This…

Lately, like so many of us, my heart has been heavy. Not only did the New York 911 tragedy shocked and pained me, my recent incoming e-mails seeking financial advice are reflective of the aftermath of the terrorist attack and the current severe economic downturn.

Economic Hardship

One e-mail I received a few minutes ago simply read:

“Major layoff occurred last week. I was one of them. Effective immediately please do not send anything to the company e-mail address. Use my personal e-mail address instead. Please pray for me.”

The sender was a brother in Christ, who had experienced God’s grace just 18 months ago when he switched job.  He had had a lot of problems with his previous employer. Together we prayed for God’s guidance. Several months later we rejoiced when he landed on his new job, which had better compensation and future prospects. Now it appears bleak economic times have brought everything back to square one. What a set back!

Another e-mail from a church leader read:

“Some of our church members had recently lost their jobs. We anticipate the situation will get worse as time goes on. We would like to organize a seminar to help our brothers and sisters go through this difficult time.”

Undoubtedly, the e-mail summarizes the experience among many Chinese churches in the Silicon Valley. The widespread retrenchment hits everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. How are Christians to respond to crisis? Should their faith in Jesus Christ make a difference in the way they handle their difficulties?

Several e-mails, most likely from non-Christians, wrote about the crushing burden of debts:

“My husband owes a large amount of credit card debts. He has been able to make just the minimum payments for a year already. Recently, the commission from his sales job dropped off tremendously and he can no longer afford even the minimum payments. He wants to stop making further payments. How will his debts affect me?”

“I heard you talked about consumer credit counseling service on your radio program tonight. My family has very heavy credit card debts. We have been able to make the payments so far. But with the economic downturn, I am very concerned that if one of us gets laid off we will not be able to handle the payments. Can you give me more information about this service?”

“We are about two months behind on our mortgage payments. Our house is now listed but the market has been slow. How much time do we have to sell the house before the bank comes and takes our house? Should we approach our bank to get more time to sell our house? Surely the bank does not want to have us give it our keys and walk away from the property.”

Suddenly debts are a big problem for many families who are over-extended. Budgets that rely on two incomes are particularly at risk. I remember the days when callers to my radio programs were insisting that it was wise to borrow from the equity of their homes to invest in the stock market. Warnings against using margin loans to increase stock investments were falling on deaf ears. The severe fall in the stock market prompted some to send e-mails like the following:

“I put 90% of my life savings into the stock market, and mostly in high technology companies, about a year ago thinking the market had hit the bottom. I am only a few years away from retirement, and am very depressed that I may not have the resources to retire. Should I take the losses and sell now, or should I hang on? I have not been able to sleep much because I am so worried. ”

As I receive many e-mails like the above, I wonder how can I respond to these senders that will bring them comfort and hope? For some, the damages have been done, and the road to recovery will be a long and difficult one. As war and further economic uncertainties are expected, I think we will experience hard times for quite a while. Nine interest rate cuts and tax cuts have not done what they are supposed to. Few positive signs are on the horizon. I would like to be able to tell these hurting people that we are at the bottom, or this is the darkest hour before dawn, but no one has a crystal ball that can resolutely give these predictions. Meanwhile, all signs seem to point to a long and bleak winter.

Personal Safety Threatened

Besides economic uncertainties, we now suddenly found that we are living in dangerous times when our personal safety is no longer assured. A recent Newsweek poll showed that 85% of Americans now believe biowarfare waged by terrorists is likely. A pastor friend of mine, who follows current news closely, advocated strongly about taking immediate precautions against chemical warfare. Below is a portion of his e-mail:

…I found out that Cipro is the antibiotics of choice , better than Doxycycline (or

Tetracycline) for the treatment of Anthrax and other common biological agents (bacteria).  This weekend, news said that in New York City, many pharmacies ran out of Cipro. Someone fake a throat infection and got the nurse to get a doctor’s prescription for Cipro. Ideally, you should take 2 tablets a day for 30 days (in case of Anthrax). My strong advice to you is: get what you can; a week is better than nothing. When it hits the fan, you won’t be able to get it.”

The same pastor also suggested the purchase of gas masks, but then he immediately advised us that it is almost impossible to find them because they have been completely sold out. I have no idea what Cipro is, let alone how to get some. This news left me wonder what I can and should do for my family and myself. What a turbulent and dangerous time that we are all living in!

Thriving In Turbulent Times

Recently PRO organized a seminar titled “Thriving in Turbulent Times – How to win and succeed in the bust phase”. Four Christians, who together have had more than 100 years’ experience in the Silicon Valley, presented their views of the high technology industries. Moreover, each of them has endured at least one or two severe downturns. They were able to share how they thrived in turbulent and difficult times. One thing that came out loud and clear is: their faith in Jesus Christ has made a big difference in the way they handle crisis.

Years ago, when the nation of Israel faced the threat of extinction, one man spoke these words to his niece who was just recently crowded the queen: “…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). I believe God places us at a place and a time such as this for a reason. Perhaps He wants us to experience the “heart that is not troubled or afraid” because of the peace that Christ has given us (John 14:27). Perhaps He wants us to learn that He alone is the sovereign God of the universe who is still in control of world events despite all the turmoil and uncertainties. Perhaps He wants us to hasten in spreading the gospel and in sharing about our hope that is in Christ with non-Christians. Perhaps He wants to re-evaluate our life’s goals and life style in the light of living in turbulent times.

At such a time as this, what is your individual response to Christ?

Oct 2001