Sometimes it takes a recession to dig up the roots of our lives and replant them in soil that causes us to bear the fruit of generosity.
2020 — the year of the “Great Lockdown,” leading to what some are now calling the “Great Coronavirus Recession.” It was triggered by a strategic wager: sacrifice economic momentum in order to physically distance people, all with the goal of starving and killing off a spreading virus. It was a huge gamble, and it hurt.
The Dow Jones, flirting with 30,000 in February, plummeted to under 19,000 a month later. As I record, 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. The financial fallout of the Great Coronavirus Recession has been compared to the Great Recession of 2007–2009, even evoking comparisons to the Great Depression of 1929–1933. Looking ahead, some think the economy will bounce back to normal as soon as the virus is under control. Others are less optimistic.
Recessions are killjoys: They destroy small businesses. They disrupt life. They take away our normalcy. And they cost us our happiness. In March the president predicted America would lose more lives to the despair of recession than to the virus itself, saying that “people get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies . . . in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.” Statistically, this statement is hotly contested. But just appreciate these words and what they say about the apparent threat of economic uncertainty on emotional wellbeing.
This isn’t the first recession. It won’t be the last one. So what is God up to in this recession? About a decade ago, John Piper preached a sermon under that exact title: “What Is the Recession For?” It was preached on February 1, 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession. At the time, the Dow had been dropping, but had not yet bottomed out. Recessions, he shows, are not meant to kill our joy, but to make our joy more stable. Here’s Pastor John, explaining from 2 Corinthians 8:1–2.