Prayers, songs and verses for a recession

(Originally published April 14, 2009)

As the U.S. (in fact, the whole world) continues to struggle through the economic downturn, a lot of people are stressed. Financial industry workers are seeking help in greater numbers for depression and alcoholism, as the Times of London reports:

You’re supposed to be a master of the universe, you’re supposed to be on top of everything,” said one financial services executive who began alcohol rehab in August. “There’s not a lot of sensitivity training or meetings where you sit around and ask how everyone is feeling. No one walks around saying: ‘I feel your pain.’

And regular folks are suffering, too. Even if they haven’t lost a job, they may know someone who has, and the continuous string of bad news adds to the worry. (As a journalist, I know I’m not immune from this, either.)

Dennis Friedman, medical director for in-patient psychiatry at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Arizona, tells the Arizona Republic, “Nationwide, calls to crisis prevention lines, psychiatric lines are up about 30 percent.”

So what can we do to cope while we wait for the market to rebound?
First, look out for the people around you. If there’s any upside to this mess, I think it’s that it’s forcing people to think about those in need, rather than striving to be like the rich and powerful.
Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help. According to the Republic, the U.S. government has published “A Guide to Getting Through Tough Economic Times” as a clearinghouse for information.

Even though I’m fortunate to have a job, I’ve been worried about my friends who’ve been laid off, as well as the future of my industry.
Some Bible passages, prayers and songs have helped me cope. Your mileage may vary, of course.

First, the prophet Habakkuk was able to rejoice in God, even when it seemed like the ancient Israelites had lost everything in exile:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Secondly, the writer of Proverbs 30 has a very healthy attitude toward money:

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

Lastly, Jesus had some pretty good things to say about not worrying (from Luke 12):

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Also, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer has a good prayer for the unemployed — and the rest of us:

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

And, as the recession forces us to rethink our attitudes toward money, consumerism and work, I recommend two songs by one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot: an oldie but a goodie, “Company Car,” and, a newer song, “American Dream.”

A final thought from the latter song:

Maybe we’ve been caught singing red, white, blue and green,
But that ain’t my America; that ain’t my American dream.