It's been a hectic couple of weeks for the stock market. It all started with the S&P's downgrade of the US credit rating that led to massive drops in the stock market over a few days. Then, we had a couple days of significant gains, but we aren't back to where we were before this all started. I noticed a couple of things as I read articles about the losses and gains. Fear is the consistent descriptive factor when the stock market suffers losses. Investors are fearful of another recession, so they sell. Investors are fearful of what the credit downgrade could mean, so they sell. Fear drives many of the decisions on Wall Street. On the other hand, hope is also a driving factor on Wall Street. When investors saw a few modest signs that the economy might not be heading toward another recession, they had hope and began to buy again. Fear and hope live on Wall Street, and in large part determine the financial landscape of our country.
Fear and hope live on our streets, too. They determine many of the decisions we make everyday and often determine what our lives look like. We all have fear. Our fears may be different, but we all live with them, and I'm not just talking about phobias like fear of spiders or fear of heights. We live with fear, and that affects how we live and the decisions we make. Sometimes, we are afraid we won't have enough, so we hoard everything. Fear can lead to selfishness, and it can also lead you to stop living. Sometimes, we are so afraid to lose what we have that we don't use it. Maybe we're afraid of failure, so we don't even try. You may really want that new job, but you don't want to face the possibility of failing at it, so you don't even apply. We let fear dictate our lives so often, and when we do, the stock of our lives drops because fear keeps us from really living up to our potential. Fear keeps us from giving, loving, sharing, and even living. There is a reason why "Do not fear" is one of the most repeated commands in scripture. God knows what fear can do to us. It can sink us, just as it almost sank Peter as he walked out on the water to Jesus.
But hope can lift us to new heights. Sometimes we go out on a limb because we have just a small bit of hope. I remember the first time I kind of asked my wife out. Well, it wasn't really asking her out. I sent her an email telling her I liked her. I had just a little bit of hope that maybe she'd have a favorable response. Usually, fear kept me from doing anything like that. So I sent the email, and then my fear took over and I hid from her for days. She was pretty annoyed with me when I finally got up the courage to speak to her again. It would have all been easier if I had listened to the hope instead of the fear, but I'm glad I listened for a moment in the middle of the night, enough to write an email and press send.
Hope can lift us high. We have hope that maybe we can make a difference, and so we try to, and more times than not the difference we make will be bigger than we imagined. We have hope in the resurrection from the dead, and so we can live full and abundant lives, not just cowering in fear and not just stuck in mourning for all those who have left us. We hope, and so we can smile, and anticipate, and live again.
The stock market will continue to go up and down. There will be new reasons for investors to fear and new reasons to give them hope, and we'll sit on the sidelines and watch the spectacle play out. But don't let fear keep you on the sidelines of your own life. We each have reasons to fear, and new ones seem to come up every day, but listen to the voice of hope too. Sometimes it is better to hope and suffer a loss than to fear and just keep sliding back slowly. Hope will eventually win and raise us to the heights of heaven, because we hope in Jesus Christ, who is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the victor over sin and death, and the King of this world. Hope will win. Whatever you put stock in, put everything you have, your whole life, in the hope of the Gospel. Then enjoy the never-ending richness of God's love now and forever. AMEN.