Financial analysts, advisers and observers are trying to help worried consumers as they face bad economic news in jobs, housing, prices and other areas.
But suggestions are meager. Most predictions sound dire. And the near future looks grim.
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It takes a lot of faith — even for people of faith — to stay positive and to navigate the treacherous economic waters.
We asked people in the faith community for advice on ways to get through hard economic times. Here are excerpts from some of their responses.
SEEK GODLY COUNSEL
In the Bible, the story is told in 2 Kings 4:1-7 of a widow whose creditors are about to take her two sons as payment for her debts.
She turns to the prophet Elisha for help. He asks her what she has in her house. Nothing except a little oil, she says.
Elisha tells her to ask all her neighbors for as many empty jars as she can collect, then pour oil into the jars. The oil keeps flowing until all the jars are filled.
Then he tells her to sell the oil and pay her debts, and she and her sons can live on what is left.
This woman sought godly counsel, said Bart Nill, area director for Crown Financial Ministries, which teaches financial principles based on the Bible.
A person can seek godly counsel through prayer, the church or organizations such as Crown, Nill said.
“Then people have to be willing to obey what God tells them to do,” he said. “You have to let go of your pride and humble yourself in front of family and friends, explaining what is going on and asking for help if you need it.”
BELIEVE GOD WILL PROVIDE
In Genesis, Chapter 22, God puts Abraham's faith and loyalty to a supreme test by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God.
Dramatically, just as Abraham raises his knife to kill his son, an angel of the Lord calls out from heaven and tells him not to harm the boy.
Abraham looks up, and there in a thicket he sees a ram caught by its horns. He sacrifices the ram and calls that place “The Lord Will Provide.”
In that Scripture, God showed himself as Jehovah Jireh, God the provider, said the Rev. Ervin Sims Jr., pastor of Mount Carmel Church of God in Christ in Kansas City, Kan.
“Believers must know and have confidence in God as Jehovah Jireh,” he said. “It is all about God being the provider and the promises he has made to never leave us or forsake us.
”God doesn't make a promise that we will maintain the same lifestyle we have now, but he will always provide for us. The person during difficult times has to bathe himself or herself in the Word of the Lord and let God's Word speak to their hearts.“
The Qur'an says, ”O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may learn self-restraint,“ said Imam Rudolph Muhammad of Al-Inshirah Center in Kansas City, Mo.
”Fasting has been ordered as a religious duty,“ Muhammad said, and ”this aids in our avoiding becoming enslaved by greed and unchecked desires.“
Also, he said, ”People cannot attain salvation unless we learn to restrain ourselves from overly desiring what we can do without.“
By learning self-restraint, people can discipline themselves and bring their lives under control for the service of God, he said.
ALWAYS HAVE HOPE
The Bible is an excellent resource for financial guidance, said the Rev. Paul Brooks, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Raytown, Mo. For example, it tells how to avoid some problems by saving and preparing for anticipated needs.
”But when life throws a curve, a job loss, medical problems, $4 gas, etc., we are taught to have faith in God's provision,“ he said. ”Christians always have hope, always.
“We are confident that God knows our needs and will act in our best interests.”
Brooks said the words of David had always brought hope to him: “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
DON'T WORRY, HAVE FAITH
In Luke, Chapter 22, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about the things of this life. He asks, “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life span?”
“Yet fear, anxiety, doubt and real concern are with us,” said the Rev. David Holloway, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Kansas City. “Faith doesn't keep bad things from occurring. People will get ill; the economy will go up and down; cars will collide. How do we respond to such things?”
He said he tries to be positive but is not always successful.
“But again I fall back on what Jesus reminds, how much can you add to your life by worrying?” Holloway said. “We all still have to deal with hardships or bad times, but having a bit of faith gives us a leg up on facing tough things.”
BELIEVE GOD CARES AND BE CARING
“I believe that faith and fellowship are key to getting through hard times,” said the Rev. Alice Piggee-Wallack, senior pastor of True Light Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Mo. “Belief that God cares about our day-to-day struggles fights hopelessness.
”If God cares for the birds of the air, how much more shall he care for us?“
The church always has had an important role in helping those who face financial hardships, she said.
”The Apostle James says real religion is reaching out to the homeless and loveless in their plight and guarding against corruption from the godless world,“ Piggee-Wallack said. ”God has established an upside-down order unlike that of the world.
“In God's economy, wealth flows from those who have much to those who have needs.”
It helps to belong to a caring community in times of need, she said, and “for the able, care for the needs of the least.”
© 2008, The Kansas City Star.
Visit The Star Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.kansascity.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): hardtimes AMX-2008-08-27T08:23:00-04:00