A surprising number of business owners I’ve spoken with over the last several months are shaken by the state of the economy. They’ve been candid about the difficult predicament this tight economy has put them in. Many are concerned about having to cut the size of their staff in order to stay financially viable. Others are painfully aware they’re about to lose their family business and, with it, their entire life savings if sales don’t improve.
Even companies that have been around for a hundred or more years are closing their doors in bankruptcy or are being bought outright by other firms. Major institutions which have been the bedrock of society, firms like A.G.I., Bear Stearns, Chrysler, Citigroup, Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac, and General Motors, among others, have either required government bailouts to remain solvent or have been essentially nationalized.
Not to sound insensitive to those hardest hit by these difficult times, it strikes me that the Lord might be using the down economy to “shake the tree” so hard, there’s not a limb left to hang onto. Put another way, when the going gets really tough there’s no place to land except on the one true foundation—our relationship with Christ. There’s simply nothing left to trust in. That’s not all bad.
In fact, I’ve come to see there’s a benefit in all of this shaking. As I’m driven to my knees by my challenging circumstances, that’s when I come face to face with my Maker. It’s in His presence where the real business of life gets done. Just Him and me. One on one. Father and son. Talking. Listening. Connecting without distractions. That’s not just a good thing, it’s the best place to be.
Sometimes it takes His shaking to reawaken you and me.
Which brings me to an observation from the other side of the world. When I was in China not long ago, an individual pulled me aside and told me he’s been praying for the church in America. I asked, “In what way are you praying for us?” He said, “I’m praying that America has a bit more persecution because we see the American church as a very soft church.” Although his comment stung, he was right on many levels.
We’ve had it easy for so very long.
We enjoy living in nice homes, we drive nice cars, we wear comfortable clothes, and we’ve had a reasonably good economy compared to the rest of the world. In fact, we’ve pretty much always have experienced a solid economy. Which is why it’s tempting to believe that such blessings are our birthright; an entitlement for us to enjoy forever.
I’ll admit it’s kind of nice to have it easy.
But most things in life don’t last forever.
The question, then, during these difficult times is not to ask, “What is the president doing to stimulate the economy?” or “Why isn’t the Congress doing more to solve our problems?” Rather, we ought to be asking, “What is God up to?” and “What does God want me to learn through these tough times?” and “Why might He be shaking our culture so hard there’s nothing left to fall back on except for Him?”
Wisdom suggests that we use these days as a wake-up call, a time when we get back on track by aligning our will and our plans with God’s agenda. Yes, as my friend in China has been praying, it’s time for some genuine soul-searching within the church, too. I believe the following three questions are a great tool to help move us closer to discovering the heart of God in the days ahead:
1) Why am I here?
2) What does God want to do with my life?
3) How can I best use my gifts and talents to advance His kingdom rather than mine?