There is a certain romance in temporary poverty. Think newlyweds living on love or students living on Pot Noodles. Many of my family members back in the States speak about their ‘poor years’ with fondness and pride, like a rite of passage. Rice and beans, cloth nappies, furniture from the dump, no health insurance, yet with a clear end in sight. But if this recession ever had any romance to it, it is quickly fading away.
We moved to Cyprus nearly two years ago. We started building a life here – working in the family business, serving in the local church, buying a house. There were rumours of a financial crisis from the beginning. But then it started becoming much more tangible, and more troubling. And finally came the bailout fiasco.
There is nothing like a bank-closing, savings-confiscating, job-endangering crisis to expose your insecurities. Will this be our last pay-check (and thus our last tank of petrol, our last mortgage payment?) Will we face unemployment? Foreclosure? Another migration?
First comes the surprise. Surely this couldn’t happen to me. Maybe in other parts of the world. Or ok, maybe last century. Surely we should know how to avoid things like this by now.
Then comes the indignation. Shouldn’t a person be able to make it in this world if she is educated and willing to work? (*Pounds fist on table*.)
King David spoke of princes, horses, and chariots. Today, we learn to put our trust in other things. Banks. Governments. Jobs. Education. The Euro. But one by one, they are being stripped away; they are failing us.
The island is besieged by fear. “How are you surviving?” we ask each other. “Which bank were you with?” “Have you been paid this month?”
Fear is always a problem, even in good times. But these days, it can overshadow everything we do, and make us question everything we thought we believed.
Maybe that’s why the command that appears most often in the Bible is “DO NOT FEAR.”
It is not a harsh rebuke telling us to suck it up and do better. It is a promise, a whisper of hope when everything else has failed us:
Do not fear, for I am with you.
Do not be afraid. I know the number of hairs on your head. I have called you by name, and you are mine. Do not worry. I care for birds and the flowers. Can I not take care of you? I did not spare my own son. Will I not also give you all things?
Why are you so afraid, O you of little faith?
O me of little faith.
This is God’s way – using uncertainty to remind me of the one certainty. Using my weakness as strength. Teaching me to look back at his past faithfulness. To cling to his promises. To hold my ‘stuff’ lightly, and be generous. To seek a treasure that moths and rust and thieves cannot touch.
You can read more about the Cyprus financial crisis here.
[Scriptures paraphrased from Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:1, Matthew 10:30, Matthew 6:25-34, Romans 8:32, Matthew 8:26]