By Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner – Can you believe it? America, the richest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth, was downgraded in its credit rating for the first time in its 235 years as a nation. What does it mean to be downgraded? It means a lack of confidence that America will pay its bills. It means a rejection of America’s AAA credit rating. It means fear winning out over faith in America’s financial future with the largest stock market decline since World War II of over 600 points. An incredible spirit of fear, rejection, and lack of confidence fell over our nation on Monday, August 8th as the stock market closed.
But that is not the whole story. America’s credit rating was downgraded and the stock markets here and around the world sharply declined. Yet, the bond market, through record purchases of American securities, was at an all time high. I do not know much about the stock market. I do know that whenever you face a crisis, it helps to look at the big picture. When I look at the big picture, I see a real message of hope despite all the gloomy news. I see myself living in a nation that has been blessed mightily by God since its founding, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Except for the 911 terrorist attacks, America has never been attacked on its shores. Beyond gratitude for living in a secure nation, you have to travel abroad to know how blessed you are to live in a nation where most schools, telephones or cell phones, power systems, food supplies, airlines, cars, bridges, roads, police and fire departments, and hospitals work. Despite the record number of natural disasters across America this year, we can still count on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.), Red Cross, Salvation Army, countless churches and millions of goodhearted citizens to show up with food, shelter, and survival supplies. The same is not true in earthquake devastated Haiti and Japan where restoration has not come quickly; nor in drought-stricken Africa where millions die daily. America may be downgraded financially, but she is lifted up, protected, and showered by manifold blessings from the God of all creation.
There are times when we personally experience being downgraded. Whenever we are cut from our jobs, turned down by our college of choice, face a broken marriage, a personal tragedy, the death or serious illness of loved ones, school bullying or violence, declining health and lack of health insurance, failed finances, or divided congregations; we face downgrading or rejection that cuts deeply and rocks our world. Any downgrading or threat to our survival and self-image shatters our confidence and causes fear to overwhelm our very being.
African Americans historically and today know what it means to be downgraded by others simply for the color of skin God gave them. From enslavement to unending seasons of racial segregation and degradation, African Americans know what it means to be downgraded as humans. The election of the first African American President of the United States in our 235 year history has not changed this downgrading or putting down by others for reasons of race. President Obama, despite his brilliance and outstanding leadership, has been called everything but a child of God by those who know better. Even if they hate the President or just disagree with his politics, they are duty-bound as Americans to respect the highest office of the land. This President has faced more death threats daily than all the Presidents since George Washington. So downgrading is not new to African Americans from the streets to corporate suites; from urban housing to the White House. Yet, as a people, African Americans have survived because of a strong faith rooted in the God of “weary years and silent tears” who has kept, sustained, and lifted them up above those who seek to downgrade them. African Americans have overcome great odds because their confidence has not been in government, but in God.
Like America, during this season of economic uncertainty, in times like these we need an anchor, a Savior, and a healer. In times like these, when all else fails, we must turn to the only true power, the power of Almighty God who lifts our heads, when life’s circumstances bring us down. Be encouraged today by the Biblical Queen Esther, whose Jewish people were threatened with annihilation by evildoers who downgraded and marked them for death, who was lifted up and used by God to save her people. Be encouraged today by the young Joseph, whose jealous brothers downgraded him, threw him into a pit, and sold him into slavery, but was lifted up by God and moved from the pit to the palace as governor of Egypt. And, be encouraged by courageous trailblazers and spiritual pioneers like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Irene Height, and Nelson Mandela.
To our young people, our experienced social networkers, who may not know all of these historic giants of our past, Google them and you will be amazed how their courage in the midst of trials will encourage your hearts and embolden your actions.
I encourage you to make today the first day for the rest of your life by rejecting the downgraders; and embracing with new passion and purpose, the uplifting love and power of God. God alone can change your circumstances from failed to healed; and from helpless to hopeful. Fight for those who are worse off than you, as others have fought for you. Register and vote for elected officials who will not balance the federal budget and reduce deficits on the backs of the poor, widowed, orphans, and the vulnerable. Embrace a “Lift My Eyes To The Hills” and “Still I Rise” spirit today as you count your blessings and not your problems. Remember that the “perfect love” of God, self, and others “casts out fear.” Put your hope and trust in the God of Jesus Christ alone; not in the Congress, the White House, or even the stock market. Look up, not down, and live!
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner is president of Skinner Leadership Institute exists to produce a new generation of leaders who are technically excellent and spiritually mature. She is a nationally recognized spiritual leader, teacher, lecturer and mediator.