Forgiveness and friendship are good investments during tough times

Dr. Douglas K. Fletcher, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian ChurchACROSS AMERICA and on Hilton Head Island, people have seen their projections of retirement income decimated.

Jobs have been lost, income sharply curtailed. I would like to be able to say that my church has been spared all the chaos, anxiety, and heartache. It has not. Instead, we participate in the broader experience of the community, and our people, whether longtime members or new to faith, have no guarantee of protection from adversity, financial or otherwise.

But the issues do get framed differently in church. After all, along with the economic challenges come a number of spiritual challenges. There is the challenge of  anxiety and stress of living in uncertain times.

But then what times are really certain? Jesus didn’t counsel running away from stress, but instead invited us to remember that God cares more about us than about birds or flowers.

The antidote to anxiety, according to Jesus, is to trust God’s care for you.

And then there are issues of forgiveness. For those who have made investment decisions that now seem foolish, there may be the need to forgive oneself.

For those who have trusted spouses for financial decisions, there may be the need for forgiveness and the resolve to move on together. For those who have trusted investment advisers too much, well, there may be some forgiveness needed there too.

Forgiveness is a process of letting go that keeps us from being scarred by life’s failures and keeps us from carrying a lot of baggage from the past into the present and future.

In fact, the challenge for followers of Jesus Christ is to live rather out of sync with the anxiety of society, to live with an abundance mentality, a confidence that there will be enough, and that life is about far more than money.

Such a confi dence pushes members of the church to live generously and graciously even now — and to be alert to the needs of others. And then there are friendships. One of the enemies to discouragement is friendship. Church communities are networks of friendship and encouragement. There are people who have never been through anything like this economic chaos before. And there are people who remember the Great Depression and share stories of surviving it.

Some of the stories about the Great Depression are about family, about being reminded in hard times of the things most important, about joys even in the midst of hardship. And we are reminded that our worth is not ultimately defined by a balance sheet, but by a God who is shockingly, embarrassingly, passionate about us.

Finally, there is this question. Do I believe God can intervene and turn around a person’s financial situation? Absolutely. But it is not something we can predict or plan on. And when it happens, it is itself a sign — to encourage a life of generosity, a life reflecting the generosity of God.

By Dr. Douglas K. Fletcher,
Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head Island

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of essays by local clergy on matters of faith.