God, hope and the recession

Prayer is good, but so is offeringa hand when times are hard

Remember how fortunate we are even in tough economic times, suggests the Rev. Bob Oshita of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento.

Remember how fortunate we are even in tough economic times, suggests the Rev. Bob Oshita of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento.

Photo By Anne Stokes

My mother lost her job last month, laid off after nine-and-a-half years. At 56, she’s no longer sure how she’ll pay the soon-to-adjust rate on her mortgage. As she watches the small scraps of her hard-earned 401(k) shrink before her eyes, she joins the ranks of those who have come to feel that everything is falling apart around them.

Yet in spite of her circumstances, my mother is in good spirits. She finds hope in her faith, and she finds nourishment for that hope and faith through the open doors of her church.

A Christian, my mother attends Calvary Chapel of Sacramento. Like many Christian churches, the teachings remind her that God has a plan for her life and that he has promised to be with her through good times and bad. Peace and happiness are offered as a free gift that requires only her acceptance. God is in control. Joy, peace and personal identity are not found in this world nor in material possessions, but in eternal life with Christ. Through her faith and her church, my mother finds that love is more important than money, mortgages and retirement funds. She is excited to see what God has planned next for her.

“This doesn’t mean I just sit back doing nothing, waiting on God to put all the pieces together,” my mother says. “I know God is at the steering wheel of my life, but no one drives a parked car anywhere.”

While my mother actively puts herself on the job track by posting résumés and looking for work, the community of support within her church also reaches out in a very concrete way. Calvary Chapel in Roseville maintains a job-posting board. Other local churches offer financial assistance to the job seeker with past-due utility bills or needs for gas or groceries. The church seeks to become a channel of God’s provision, believing that God has promised to provide for our needs.

But the help doesn’t begin and end with the Christian denominations. One of my closest friends attends the Buddhist Church of Sacramento. There, the Rev. Bob Oshita says having a positive outlook takes effort. He emphasizes a focus on trying one’s best, with the knowledge that if we try our best everything will be OK. We have to earn happiness, he says, and we must be grateful for what we do have rather than feeling entitled to more. “In the United States in 2009, we are still so fortunate,” he said. “We have so much.”

Rev. Bob, as he prefers to be called, also talks about nurturing a deep sense of well-being that leads to peace of mind, and about nurturing patience. Impatience leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to war. Through we can’t change what is happening around the world, we can change our own small sphere of influence. He keeps it very simple: Try our best because that’s all we can do.

Hope can be difficult to come by in times of economic recession. Job and home losses affect people in a very real way. Hope in the economy and hope in the government is quickly dashed. But no matter one’s job status or life situation, a good church can offer guidance on the path to faith. Faith offers hope that never runs out, because it is hope in an eternal spirituality that connects and guides us all if we are open to it.

As I drive the streets of Sacramento looking for a new apartment for my family—it turns out my rental was not safe in this economy, either—I see a city filled with community churches opening their doors to shine a light on the path to hope.