I will be the first to admit that I have an unhealthy relationship with money.
I’m always afraid all my money is going to run out and I’m going to be homeless. The best way to describe my relationship with money is fear-driven.
In my defense, my family was far from financially stable growing up. My mom did her best raising two kids as a single mother. At times, it required her to work two full-time jobs. That was a pretty rough season of life.
I was always very aware of our financial situation as a kid. Even at a young age, I felt the responsibility to not spend money. Not because my mom burdened me, but because I had seen the tears flood down her face every time she looked at her bills.
I just knew I needed to help any way I could. My aunt would often give me a few bucks for watering her plants for the week or doing some other chores. As soon as she paid me, I snuck those few dollars in my mom’s purse when she wasn’t looking. To this day, I’m not sure if she ever realized it was me. Though I’m not very sneaky, so it’s likely that she knew.
This developed in me a fear-based relationship with money. And I’ve definitely carried this relationship with money into my adult life and now into my marriage.
It doesn’t matter if my expense to income ratio is high or low. I constantly fear what financial crisis may arise and leave me homeless. Within the last few months, Dale and I have seen hit after hit to our finances. From tires blowing out on the side of the freeway, to plumbing problems, to the joy of receiving an email that says, “Congratulations! You are almost done with school and now your student loans are due.”
Needless to say my fear-based relationship with money has been at an all time high this last month. Oh yes, and this has all happened during the most expensive time of the year – Christmas.
As someone in need of deep recovery from a dysfunctional relationship with money, here are two ways God is working on my heart to trust him with my finances. Only two, because the Lord knows that’s all I can handle at this time.
1. Grow strong in faith by learning to remember.
I must admit, when moments like this month happen I quickly turn into Fix-It Felix (if you haven’t seen Wreck it Ralph, it’s a must). I strategize and plan how we can make all of the complicated puzzle pieces work together, only to realize we are still short and I can’t make it all work.
I quickly forget that, time after time, God has cared for me. I have gone without many things, but never without the things I need. I vividly remember as a kid our lights getting shut off and my mom trying to make the best of it, only to have them turned back on within a few hours because an anonymous person paid our electric bill.
To say God has cared for my needs is truly an understatement. And yet, I still fret about how I’m going to figure out the new expenses hitting our account this month. God has promised to care for everything I need. And I’ve seen him do it again and again. Why can’t I seem to believe that when another impossible situation enters my life?
When God promised Abraham and Sarah a child at a very old age, he knew the physical situation was impossible.
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:21-22)
I want to be more like Abraham. Instead of my faith wavering when I get hit with expense after expense that is out of my control, I want my faith to grow stronger in my God. I want to be fully assured that what God has promised he is able to perform.
I know this doesn’t mean we will live without struggle and we might need to sacrifice the things we want. But God will provide for our needs, because that is what he’s promised to do.
When situations like this happen, I don’t want my fear to rise up. I want my faith to. I want my response to be based on the full assurance that God has me, as he always has and always will.
2. Be obedient in the ways you know how.
As I sat in front of my computer screen toggling back and forth between my bank account and finance sheet, I began to justify why the only rational decision was to eliminate our giving for the next couple of months.
But the thing about marriage is that I couldn’t just make this decision on my own. I spent a bit of time mentally preparing the argument that I would share with my husband, who is very rational. I knew I could only succeed at convincing him if I had a well thought out argument. The more that plan rolled around in my head, the more I began to feel convicted.
I hesitate sharing this because I don’t want anyone to feel guilt or shame based on your current giving situation. Those who give to their home church are no more righteous or religious than those who don’t.
But as a couple, we have discussed and prayed over our giving and the amount we would give to what ministries each month. We see this as part of our faithfulness to God, since we are merely stewards of the resources God has given us.
With that said, my “rational” plan to forego giving for the next few months was rooted in my fear-based relationship with money. My desire to build a safety net within our expenses stemmed from my lack of trust that God would care for us.
The more I ran through this idea, the more apparent it became that fear was motivating my decision. I later realized that I had left the giving page open in my browser for two whole days.
Later on, I shared with my husband about the difficult battle I was having internally, because I thought it was important for him to know where I was. Plus, when you speak your temptations to someone, it keeps you accountable.
I’ve been wrestling and praying through this for quite some time, and on several different occasions. During this time, it became very clear that for me, stepping forward in obedience and trust in God meant letting go of the safety net I built. It meant trusting someone so much bigger than my own abilities to strategize and reallocate where money goes.
I have to be obedient in the one thing that was very clear God was calling me to.
Sometimes trusting God looks like stepping forward in the one thing he has made clear. It doesn’t matter how impossible the situation seems. I need to trust that the safety net God can build is far greater than the meager one I spend far too much time and energy devising.
As I write you, our current situation hasn’t changed significantly. But I’m clinging to Jesus and praying that he gives me the strength to grow my faith and step forward in the one thing he is clearly calling me to.