Finding God in a Financial Crisis

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

That’s what these two readers went through. The first:

Neal Gabler’s article needs to be shared and sent from one end of the country to the other. The worse thing that happened to me in recent years was outsourcing. My entire industry up and died over the course of one year; all the work went to Canada. I was decimated. I had no savings, my wife wasn’t making anything, and there were no jobs—none that I could find.

I went into a downward spiral of fear, panic, extreme sadness, and a feeling of absolute destitution. I couldn’t sleep much. I cried all the time, trying to hide it from my wife and daughter as much as I could. They still knew.

Though I hadn’t even been inside of a church in 30 years, I wound up going one day, sobbing to the reverend after service. I was lost, and I knew it.

Emotionally, spiritually—we define ourselves by our jobs, and now I had none. I pounded the pavement, making calls and calls. Eventually I got lucky and caught a break—a small firm that led to better work, and then better.

But the damage took years for me to overcome mentally. Four years later and I just got over the fear of looking at my bank account. And I still have no savings for my family. My wife makes better money now, but we’re not that young anymore. I live in constant worry for our future, knowing we aren’t prepared, and having to use most of the money we make now just to stay just a little ahead of the bills.

The other reader whose religious faith was deepened:

I have just gotten through your cover story and certainly agree that the middle class, poor, and some of the upper classes are in a financial mess. I watched as my income stagnated over the years. My own downfall came when I lost my job of over 26 years, obliterated my 401K, and bought a franchise business in 2006, which never made a dime (all my customers were losing their jobs and homes). I went bankrupt in 2009 and had a brain hemorrhage in 2012, which almost took my life, disabling me. I will always believe that this happened as a result of stress and worry over finances.

At that point, I had barely two extra dollars to rub together. I distinctly remember lying down on the floor in my bedroom and literally surrendering to God.

One of my blessings is not having had a credit card since 2008 … and no credit card bills. My hospital bills were forgiven. By God’s grace, I was able to keep and refinance my house and through social security and a small pension (remember those?). I am making it.

But I am careful with what I have. My faith has got me through this life and I refuse to worry, and I nip it in the bud if I start to slip. What did worry ever bring me that is good? I  could come up with $400 in an emergency, or even a couple thousand through some hard saving. I am not always frugal; I can’t live that way. Still, what is a vacation?

Yet, I am grateful and hopeful and I will always need grace. Speaking of which, pray for me: my car is 16 years old ...