How to Respond in the Midst of Prolonged Market Downturns
By Jeremy Ehst, CFP®, CKA®
I came to The Life Financial Group in August of 2007. In my first few months of employment, the stock market experienced some modest upward movement. That uptrend was short-lived however, as 2008 ushered in a prolonged and steep market decline, which would later be termed “The Great Recession”. As the market decline persisted and the recession deepened, I remember at times thinking that I was starting to sound like a broken record with the words of advice that I would give. “Be patient, stay the course, remain disciplined”, and other similar words of counsel, started to sound redundant and grew old as the market downturn dragged on. Many of us as investors and advisors, experienced a sense of weariness through this prolonged decline with seemingly no end in sight.
In the time since The Great Recession all the way up until 2022, we’ve had no significantly long market declines. Even the year 2020, where we saw markets fall more than 30% in a matter of weeks during the “Covid Crash”, finished the year positive. Prolonged market downturns had become a distant memory after more than a decade of rising markets. It is for this reason in part, that I believe one of the greatest challenges that investors face from a personal and emotional perspective during our current prolonged market downturn, is a sense of “weariness”. One might ask “How would weariness potentially be a problem”? Is not a sense of weariness a natural feeling during any prolonged challenge or difficulty that we face in life? To answer these questions, let’s consider the words of Scripture from the book of Hebrews.
The heading in my Bible preceding Hebrews 12:3-17 reads “Do Not Grow Weary”. Indeed, this title is fitting given what the Christians in that context were experiencing. The verses are an admonition and encouragement to the Believers to endure through difficult times of persecution for their faith. Endurance was required, because this was not a quick, easily resolved, trial. Given the ongoing, prolonged nature of the struggle,
we can imagine how the Believers would have felt tired, and tempted to doubt God’s plans or even to give up. And yet in verse 3 the writer calls the Christians specifically to “not grow weary or fainthearted”, and points to Jesus as the example of endurance through persecution. Yes, the writer of Hebrews understood that weariness, tiredness, fatigue, is a natural challenge to the soul during a prolonged time of difficulty. And yet he is also concerned with how the Believers respond in the midst of the trial. He exhorts them in verse to 12 to “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees…” He’s encouraging to them continuing on, to not give up, and have faith in God’s plan and calling on their lives.
It seems trite to compare the current prolonged market struggles with the ongoing persecution faced by the early Church. Indeed, my intention is not to compare them in terms of the degree of difficulty or the magnitude of the two situations. Rather, my intention is simply to show that weariness is common in any prolonged trial or challenge, and that how we respond is critical. While the intention of the writer of Hebrews was certainly not to give investment counsel, the call to “not grow weary” applies in principle to our current market challenge. We might say “be patient, stay the course, remain disciplined”, as redundant as those words may become. Do not grow weary, but remember that previous prolonged bear markets have eventually turned into bull markets. And while past market performance cannot predict or guarantee the future, historical context can provide hope and confidence that this too shall pass. Most importantly, let us remember as Christians to not take lightly the truth that our ultimate hope is an eternal, heavenly hope, one which words cannot fully express and our minds can only begin to comprehend. This eternal hope is where the writer of Hebrews is directing his readers to place their ultimate confidence, and is where we find the strength to not grow weary.
Article written by Jeremy Ehst
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