Financial Anxiety

by Scott Morris

As luck would have it, I was at the Crescent Center in Memphis, Tennessee when the U.S. Marshals entered the offices of Stanford Financial and seized the company’s assets. It was a heart-pumping experience. Dressed in black, with an intense sense of purpose, the Marshals made it clear I didn’t want to get in their way. This was serious business, with serious consequences.

Stanford is accused of running a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi (or pyramid) scheme similar to the one driven by Bernie Madoff in New York. The one difference is that James Davis, Stanford’s Chief Financial Officer, began many meetings with a prayer, that they would make wise investments with the money that was entrusted to them. However, instead of investing people’s money, Davis and his partners are accused of lining their own pockets. It would appear that his prayers were insincere. However, the anxiety of Stanford’s investors is very real.

There’s something about losing a lot of money that really shakes people to their core – it’s driven by a fear like no other. This anxiety can have serious health consequences.

Worrying about money can lead to the fear of living. In my work as a doctor in our clinic at Church Health, I have long viewed poverty as a spiritual disease, because having to find food, housing and work on a daily basis can beat a person down very quickly, and there can often be clear health care consequences.

Anxiety over money can make the link between our bodies and our spirits all too evident.

The poor have long been victims of this “spiritual disease,” but the fear generated by a devastated economy is now affecting all segments of our society. Anxiety about money is rooted in an anxiety about the future and our ability to provide for those we love.

Anxiety about the future leads to depression, and depression can lead to people overeating, verbally or physically abusing family members and not taking care of themselves through exercise and taking needed medicines. It can also lead to a rise in the instances of disease that have a clear link to stress.

The Gospel offers a clear answer to these very real fears and the consequences to our health. “Fear not,” we’re told. “Seek first the kingdom of God,” and what we really need, God will provide. The endless worrying about the future of the stock market should be treated by the church with a hefty dose of “considering the lilies of the field.” I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna, but the message that God is in the midst of the troubles of the world can be a healing balm for those who are sick about their bank accounts.

Over the years, I have learned from my patients, who have always lived from paycheck to paycheck. One day at a time is the only way these people know how to live, and they know that the truly valuable things in life are not tied to the stock market.

This prescription will not buy the retirement home that Stanford’s 12 percent annual growth promised, but it will make it possible to feel God’s healing presence in order to live joyfully today.

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