A few weeks ago a reporter from MSNBC asked me, "What is the biggest threat ahead of your community...your people?"
"Despair," I said.
We'll get through the short-term crisis of this economic downturn, I said. In our city of 55,000 people the actual unemployment rate is probably above 20%. Our folks have been through economic recessions before, and they are pretty resilient. They are creative and they'll come back.
Human beings have a pretty amazing capacity to come through a short-term crisis. The soldiers under fire in a Baghdad neighborhood react with amazing resourcefulness. The family with a very sick young child pulls together and gets through the crisis.
When thngs can get really tough, though, is after the crisis passes or first hits. it's the long haul that can wear a military unit down...or a family...or a marriage...or a community.
"We'll get through the first stages of the crisis okay," I said, "but I worry about people surrendering to despair when the challenges linger for months. When that great job doesn't come back...or when some changes we thought were going to be temporary look like they might become temporary."
Yesterday I got a phone call from a buddy: after months of searching he had just received a job offer. The application process, the interviews and all, had gone on for weeks. The job was his! I could hear the relief in his voice. Today I found out another friend didn't get the job they had been hoping for, interviewing for, and I know this must feel like a very, very tough Friday. A member of the family told me, after hearing the news, that God is good...God is faithful...and there is another job out there.
We are focused on helping one another through the crisis. I find myself wondering about the long term.
I keep thinking about the empty tomb of Easter. I keep thinking about the two men traveling to the town of Emmaus, after they had heard Jesus had been nailed to a cross and buried in the ground. "But we had hoped..." they said to a stranger (who turned out to the risen Christ).
Despair is like a dog that prowls the neighborhood. Always ready to dig its teeth into us. But we are going through this together. And we have a God whose resurrection power shows up in all sorts of ways.