Over the past three years, at least fifteen people in my small parish have lost their jobs. Friends in the construction business tell me that they are now building homes “at cost,” without any profit, just to stay afloat.
Workers at our local soup kitchen report that the lines are longer than ever. In a two-block stretch of downtown Saint Augustine, Florida, where I live, at least five stores have closed their doors so far this year.
The Great Recession, as it is called, has taken a toll on people across the world. As of July this year, the unemployment rate was over eight percent in Canada, around eleven percent in both Ireland and Slovakia, over eighteen percent in Spain, and over nine percent in the United States.
Our goal in this issue is not to focus on the economic turmoil in the world. Nor is it to present a doom-and- gloom message. And it’s certainly not to tell you that your problems will be solved by just praying, going to Mass, and reading Scripture. Our goal is to tell you that Jesus is in control. He knows what we are experiencing, and he is close to us. We want to talk about how Jesus wants to console us during times of trial. We want to talk about some of the “silver linings” that have come as a result of the crisis.
Stay Close to the Lord! In 1987, I faced one of the most difficult times in my life when my young daughter Christine was diagnosed as having a rare form of cancer in her eyes. The prognosis wasn’t good; we weren’t sure if she was going to live or not. The news was devastating, and I grew disgusted with God. How could he let this happen to an innocent three-year-old little girl? I took time off from working on The Word Among Us, and I seriously considered leaving the magazine altogether. How could I, in good conscience, tell people that God has a perfect plan for our lives when I hated the plan he had for my daughter?
Over the next few months, as I went through many ups and downs with God, my heart began to change. I realized that there are times when we will never know why things happen. I began to feel a fresh outpouring of God’s love. I vividly remember the day I was finally able to say: “Lord, if you want Christine, take her. She is yours.” Today, at age twenty-seven, Christine is cancer free, but blind. God saw me through that test, but it was not fun. Even today, while Christine is fun to be with, it’s not fun knowing that your daughter can’t see. That’s why I pray: “Please, Lord, no more tests!” If you are being tested, either by financial stress, unemployment, broken relationships, or sickness, you know what I mean. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not the way we want to live. But it is during the painful times, especially when we don’t know why and especially when we don’t have any answers, that God can draw us closer to his side. God loves you. He is in control. He suffers with you. He wants to console you and strengthen your resolve. May he bless you always.