For the past several months, the attention of the world has been focused upon the health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which tens of millions of people have been infected and hundreds of thousands have died. We pray that our political leaders will govern wisely and that doctors and scientists will be able to successfully stop the spread of this deadly disease. Yet it is not just our health which has been impacted by this global outbreak.
A financial crisis
The economic impact of the pandemic has been significant, but also unevenly distributed. While many companies, from large department store chains to local small businesses are going bankrupt, other businesses, including many technology companies, are prospering. Millions of people, mostly middle and lower-income earners, have lost their jobs and/or their family businesses, while many high-income individuals enjoy job security and continue to prosper. While the middle-class appears to be experiencing a deep recession, the stock market flirts with record highs.
Some businesses and families were unprepared for these hard times. They were already living on the financial edge, as they had too much debt and too little savings. The jolt of the economic shutdown which began several months ago finished off many businesses and brought many families to insolvency.
Others had prudently lived within a budget, avoided debt and had saved for emergencies. They were prepared for a moderate economic downturn, but they did not have sufficient savings to survive zero income for several months. Certain businesses, such as gyms and entertainment venues, have been much harder hit by the crisis. Some will take longer to rebound than others, while many businesses may never fully recover.
As government aid funds run out and as the economic fallout from the economic shutdown is more fully felt, more people may face unemployment, foreclosure, and financial ruin.
A spiritual crisis
Just as no one in our generation has faced a global pandemic, few in the West have experienced such a deep financial crisis since the Great Depression. This has, in turn, contributed to a spiritual crisis. Some Christians, having been misled by teachers of the so-called prosperity gospel, who promised fulfillment of material desires as a reward for faith, are now facing significant spiritual fallout. Other Christians had put their hope in dutifully following the wisdom of Proverbs as they worked hard, followed a budget, and faithfully saved. Yet for some, even that wasn’t enough to keep them afloat during the pandemic. Those in the midst of financial hardship can be tempted to question God’s faithfulness to his promises to his people.
Biblical answers during a crisis
What do we do when we find our lives completely turned upside down by a catastrophe like COVID-19? Fortunately, God’s Word helps guide our way forward.
1. Cry out to God for help.
In the midst of a crisis we will pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 ESV) with a greater sense of dependence and fervency than during times of prosperity. While our complete dependence upon the Lord has always been true, critical situations like this force us to remember that we must look to God more than our skills, our employer, or the government to take care of us.
2. Trust God to meet your needs.
The psalmist declares, “I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25). God has not promised his people great wealth and ease in this life. You may experience a decline in lifestyle. But you can trust him to give you what you need. Jesus declares, “Do not worry then, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink? Or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:31–32 NASB). He has promised to provide for the necessities of those who seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
3. Remember God’s past faithfulness.
In the Psalms, when the people of God were in trouble, they would recall God’s great past works of deliverance as encouragement that he was able and faithful to deliver them again. This also is reflected in Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:6 that when we are anxious, we should pray with thanksgiving for all God has done for us as we anticipate his help in our current crisis.
4. Confess your sins.
Just as a drought can expose trash and junk as the waters of a lake recede, a financial crisis can expose some of our idols as our prosperity recedes. Perhaps you have been unwisely presumptuous as you overspent and accumulated too much debt. Or you may have put too much confidence in your ability to make money without being constantly and consciously dependent upon the Lord for your daily bread. Or it may be that you had been finding too much of your joy in fading earthly treasures and had neglected to pursue joy in the things of heaven. Scripture promises that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins when we confess them to him (1 John 1:9). We also can be thankful that he uses trials such as a crisis to help us to grow to be more Christlike (James 1:2–4) and to properly value heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19–21).
5. Consider how you might help those who are worse off than you.
Paul commends the believers in Macedonia who, in spite of their poverty, gave sacrificially for the relief of the churches in Judea (2 Corinthians 8:1–4). While you may have to cut back on your lifestyle during a financial downturn, you may have brothers and sisters who are on the verge of homelessness and hunger. It may be your privilege to make Christlike sacrifices as an expression of your love.
6. Make the gospel central in your thoughts.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB). To go from the heights of wealth to poverty can be a great trial. Yet no one has lowered himself as much as Jesus, who willingly left the glories of heaven to dwell among us on earth, that through his self-emptying we might be made full. Even if we experience some temporary financial losses and deprivations in this life, we have received spiritual riches which can never be taken away. We also anticipate spending eternity in his presence, where we will have no lack or sorrow, but only joy and plenty. Colossians 3:2–4 reminds us:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:2–4
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted far more than our physical health. Many who haven’t caught the illness are struggling financially and spiritually. Thankfully, God’s Word offers us the wisdom we need in troubled times and gives us hope for the future. We can be confident that the Lord is in control and that he is doing good in our lives, even through times of trial.