According to the Lansing State Journal (8/23), Michigan's hard hit economy is looking better. Unemployment has dropped from 15.2% to below 15%, the paper has twice reported.
I might feel a lot better if I could take this at face value. Unfortunately, the hard figures reveal a different story!
Unemployment is under reported
My son works for the state's department of unemployment, sometimes cynically described as "the fastest growing sector of the Michigan economy."
The reason unemployment figures are looking better, he explained, is because increasing numbers of people are coming off unemployment benefits.
Here is how it works.
Unemployed workers receive benefits for only a limited number of weeks. With extensions, people may now receive benefits for over a year but eventually they run out. That is now happening to more and more people.
My son also explained to me that 99,000 people in Michigan will have received all of their available state unemployment benefits by the end of this year. That means they could become destitute, with no income, no health insurance and unable to pay their mortgages—which indicates more foreclosures are to come!
Other unreported factors
That's not the only reason the unemployment numbers look better. People who move out of state are no longer counted as "unemployed." Nor are people who retire. Nor are the tens of thousands who have returned to their native countries. Nor are those who are in part time work, some earning as little as $50 per week. Nor are those who have had their hours and pay cut.
"CNN Newsroom" (Sunday August 23rd) predicted that 650,000 people across the United States will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of this year. This includes the 99,000 in Michigan. The prediction is that 4.4 million Americans will lose theirs before the economy recovers. That's 4.4 million people with no means of feeding themselves, short of lining up at the local soup kitchen.
It's not a pretty picture, no matter how you look at it. Things are clearly not getting any better.
One economist, not alone in his concern, wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times August 25th on the increasing likelihood of a double dip recession similar to the Great Depression. Following the Crash of 1929 the economy actually started to pick up, with the Stock Market making gains for five months in a row. Then the sixth month came and the rest is history.
Some are saying the same is likely now. The 'D' word is increasingly mentioned.
Talk of "Depression" is enough to make anyone depressed, on a personal level.
The economic upheavals that frequently plague our economies won't end until Christ returns and establishes a godly financial system. So, what should a Christian who trusts God and believes His written Word do in times like this?
The appropriate response!
The Bible clearly instructs each of us to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×).
In addition to praying each day "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10 Matthew 6:10Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
American King James Version×, King James Version), Christians should also remember to ask: "Give us this day our daily bread" (verse 11). Previous generations had to do this—often in times more challenging than now.
In the western world we've taken far too much for granted and have consistently failed to thank our Creator for all the physical blessings He has given to us. Faced with losing everything, this is a good time to start thanking God every day for all that He has given us.
Maybe for a while government can help if you lose your job, but that help won't last. Besides, the government is rapidly going broke. The U.S. deficit is so great that the BBC said a new word will soon be needed to describe it (BBC World News, PBS, 25th August).
Christians should not take anxious thought for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34 Matthew 6:34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
American King James Version×). Worry never helps. Do what you can to help yourself and ask God each day to help you provide for your family needs.
How long this recession (or depression) will last cannot be accurately predicted. One thing is certain. We must all accept a lower standard of living, going without some of the pleasures we once took for granted. However, we can take assurance from King David who observed: "I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread" (Psalms 37:25 Psalms 37:25I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
American King James Version×).
As we go through this difficult time, let's all remember to pray more fervently, "Thy kingdom come." And for a really in depth understanding of what that Kingdom will be like, please request, read online or download our free booklet, The Gospel of the Kingdom.