Recession offers opportunity for reflection, revelation

The end of the regular school year fast approaches, and with it come thoughts of education. Remember the admonition to focus on the "Three R's"? Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic. (I know, that always sounds better than it looks in print.) "R-words" can be pretty interesting, especially when thinking of the big one we've experienced for the last couple of years: RECESSION.  The way we've handled it brings to mind other words that begin with R, but more on that in a moment.

So…what have we learned during the Great Recession? Among other things, we know that the only constant in life is change. Yet the more things change, the more it all seems the same. Promises are made, then broken. Hot new stars are elected to office with great expectations, only to prove they're all too human.

We've been in doom-and-gloom mode on so many fronts for so long, it can be more difficult to know when things are getting better. A positive news update is soon overshadowed by more nervous bulletins.  In the midst of the long process and living through our experiences, focusing on a variety of things can help us move through and move on, regardless of numbers and experts and economic predictions.

That brings us to some R-words that may REVEAL some truths about life these days.

RECESSION has become such an overused word that it may have lost its meaning. Often it's a substitute for the word depression.. What's that old joke? A recession is when someone else loses their job. A depression is when you lose yours. Recession talk began way before America was actually immersed in one. 

In the months leading up to the 2008 presidential campaign, political operatives found it was in their best interest to gain traction by arguing the economy was already miserable, with jobless numbers and spending spinning out of control. Initially, it wasn't that bad.

Looking back and comparing the stats, some of that time period looks like the "good old days" (example, when GW Bush's unemployment numbers were under 6 percent).

As overspending and the mortgage meltdown dragged everything down, REACTION intensified, Suddenly we were in it—the Recession everyone talked about was here to stay for a while. The flames were fanned by a 24/7 media eager to scare the daylights out of us in order to gain audience. Politicians seized the opportunity to make people more dependent on government, expanding their power over the people.

While there's been plenty of REASON to feel the pain of market forces and downward cycles, the mood of the country is often made worse due to overreaction.

Our RESPONSE is the key. We choose to wallow in the negatives or to RISE above the fray. It's not easy, but it's essential to determine the right course ahead. We can wait for other people to "fix" things, or use our God-given ability to do something.

For many of us, the Great Recession has brought a fresh REALIZATION that those old expressions like 'money can't buy happiness" are so true. Home and family have become our most cherished possessions, and if a house is lost, many Americans learn to cling to each other for support, finding little moments of happiness in the storm, thanks to a spouse, kids or grandchildren.

This is a tremendous gift to enjoy during these times: A deeper sense of family value, when all else seems crazy in the world. Before the recessionary downturn, many of us would have been too busy to sense this.

The REPETITION of negative bad news doesn't help Americans respond quickly, pulling out of the funk, but it works positively, too. When we start to see little improvements, contemplating them more often helps adjust our attitudes and ability. This process increases perspective, which leads to REST. We feel tension going away, little by little. Often a change of pace, any mini-vacation from the daily news can help, too. RELAXATION is more common, even though we are ready to take on additional challenges, especially in these days where everyone's doing more to get by. It appears a major, unexpected change forces us to slow down and think, re-assess and re-commit.

Christians know that unforeseen circumstances can also create more RELIANCE on God. When all appears lost, we're driven to the Power Source we may have ignored when times were better.

Prayer becomes essential, and we're reminded how important it is, in good times and bad.

Then there's RENEWAL … something that goes beyond the world's view of rest and relaxation. The knowledge that we are REDEEMED, safe and secure in spite of the swirling events around us brings benefits that are often hard to describe. People of faith understand that the REWARDS that the world offers pale in comparison to what God promises when earthly life is over. So, our RESPONSE to life improves each day.

Recession lessons, indeed. Meditating on all of this brings to mind some of the lines from the famous poem by missionary C.T.Studd: Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, "Thy will be done";

And when at last I'll hear the call, I know I'll say 'twas worth it all"; Only one life,'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.

Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 7 to 9 a.m., and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 3:30 p.m. E-mail: mark@marklarson.com.

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Published, May 2010