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Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos

September 28, 2011

Watching the nightly news can be unsettling.  Natural calamities - hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes and other severe weather conditions - constantly threaten our sense of peace.  In the business world, peace appears to be more the exception and not the rule.  The recession in 2008, the threat of a double dip recession, stock market volatility, excessive personal and government debt continue to create uncertainty.  Surrounded by chaos, how can we possibly find peace and maintain a sense of confidence no matter what the crisis may be and no matter what obstacles may appear?  Let’s consider what’s happening in the world, the Canadian experience, the light that is appearing at the end of the tunnel and the ultimate answer to finding true and lasting peace.

What’s happening?
  • Concern over the level of government debt in the United States and some European countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.  In August, long term US government debt was downgraded by S&P from AAA to AAa.   These governments have been using a credit card and continually increased their credit limit while making minimum payments.  The lenders are saying it’s time to pay up.
  • Fear of a double dip recession; a second recession in the past three years.
The Canadian experience

In 1994, Canada’s sovereign debt was downgraded from AAA to AAa and was subsequently restored in 1997.  The federal government had two options: increase revenue and/or decrease expenses.  Some of the measures taken were:

  • Introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).  Currently the GST brings in more revenue than corporate taxes.
  • Offloaded/cut transfer payments to the provinces.  
  • Took steps to shore up the Canada Pension Plan by increasing contribution levels.
Through these measures, the federal government was able to eliminate annual budget deficits and eventually pay down part of the debt.  Whether we agreed with these measures or not, Canada is now reaping the rewards and is now viewed as one of the best fiscally-run countries in the world.  The federal government is again running deficits in an attempt to limit the effect of the worldwide recession (e.g. infrastructure spending such as roads and bridges – I can share some stories about my daily commute out of West Edmonton).
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Paying down debt is a key Biblical principle.  The governments of United States and Europe are now being forced to deal with their debt situation.   In the long run, given the Canadian experience as an example, this will be a good thing. In the short term, there will be pain to the citizens of those countries as they will be faced with higher taxes and/or reduction in services.  Closer to home, the Canadian economy will likely slow down as Canadian exports may decline and the price of oil and other commodities may also decrease.  For investors, we can expect continued volatility in the stock markets and low interest rates (which are good for borrowers).
Trust God
When news reports are unsettling and personal events cause chaos, faith in God, which sometimes seems irrational or unrealistic, offers the only hope for peace.  Prayer and thankfulness, despite adversity, can direct us to a deep, enduring peace.  The Bible promises “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). The answer to finding enduring peace is to ‘look up’ and trust God.

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