When money is tight you might sell stuff on Craigslist in order to make ends meet…but what if you’ve already sold everything and there’s nothing left?
Being humbled is painful. Being financial humbled can be excruciating.
As Christians we pray for these “supernatural” blessings…like that anonymous donation that shows up in the mail at just the right time to pay your mortgage.
We rejoice when it happens once…maybe twice.
But what if it happens ten, twenty, fifty times?
What if your reliance on God’s provision is a daily struggle?
What if you start to feel the eyes of judgement bearing down on you?
You can just imagine their whispers…
“Don’t they know how to manage money? Why don’t they just STOP having children. Can’t she pawn that wedding ring? Haven’t they heard of Dave Ramsey?”
Pulling out your food stamp card, you gaze down the conveyor belt and wonder what the cashier thinks of your tortilla chips? Ice cream? It doesn’t matter that you buy the off brand…it doesn’t matter that it is the ONLY “extra” item you have in your cart. None of it matters.
Even if no one is judging you. YOU are judging you: Why can’t we make it on our own?
You go home and try to find that thing you are missing.
Maybe if we did this…cut this out…try this. We could fast…again. Pray harder. Believe more.
I can pull myself out of this hole…if only I tried harder.
So you do. Nothing extra. No penny unaccounted for.
Only it doesn’t work.
So you start selling everything that you absolutely don’t need on Craigslist.
You make an extra $100. Then the van breaks.
Thank God your husband is handy. He spends exactly $100 on the parts and spends two of his weekends fixing it.
Your mom comes over and sees how bare your fridge is and brings you eggs and milk.
Reluctantly you take them…because you have to…because you will be overdrafting tomorrow and your kids need to eat.
You vent to a friend and they say “if you ever need something…please call me…” You smile and thank them, but swear to yourself that you will never call them. You are so very tired of asking for help.
Some of your Facebook friends make it very evident that those who use welfare are the dregs of society. Worthless.
If you say that you receive welfare…they quickly say “Well you are the exact type of person welfare was meant for!”
But you can’t help but wonder…am I worthless?
You pray. “Lord, please. Show us a way so we can depend on ourselves, not on others.”
And yet you stay dependent. For years.
Ex-welfare recipients gang up on you. They say, “Welfare begets welfare. Charity begets charity. The only way to get off welfare is to stop receiving it.”
So you try.
And you are pinching. Digging in your sofa to buy a gallon of milk. You fall on your face…your prayers mixed with snot, guilt and fear.
THIS IS NOT THE LIFE I MEANT TO HAVE!!!
But in your heart, you hear that voice say:
So you try. Once more.
A month later, it’s the same thing, except different.
The children are growing. Their shirts are squeezing. Especially on the oldest. Someone drops off an old bag of clothes. The younger children are elated…but nothing fits the older one.
“Why do they always get new stuff?” she asks. (At least new to them I say.)
She calls her grandma. “Grandma, do you have any work for me to earn money?”
Of course Grandma does.
She makes $10 and we go to the thrift store and she buys 3 beautiful shirts for $6 on half-price day.
But you know her friend has saved up $300 from birthdays and Christmases…she can do that because HER PARENTS BUY HER CLOTHES! Your daughter’s little friend doesn’t have to rely on her own abilities to provide her own basic necessities.
You are shamed. Utterly shamed. But at the same time you see these wonderful things peeking out. Your daughter showed ingenuity…she pressed passed the lack and found a way.
Pride is mixed with your shame. It’s a confusing world.
This post is for you. You people who are like me. Those that make it every month ONLY by faith (and maybe some government assistance). This post is for those that are thinking that their faith is running out. For those that have TRIED EVERY STINKING THING they can think of to make more money…dig themselves out of the hole and STILL have to endure the well-meaning advice of others. (Did you know there is a Financial Peace seminar coming to my church next month? Have you heard of Dave Ramsey? I’ll text you the information…No…No…I haven’t…I live UNDER A ROCK!! And we haven’t had a working cell phone since 2006 so you’ll have to call my HOME PHONE because I don’t get text messages!)
I want to tell you a story about a man named John.
He knew ALL there was to know about the Messiah. He was an expert at Old Testament prophecy. He saw a dove descending upon Jesus and heard the voice from heaven saying “This is my son with whom I’m well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Let me reiterated. He was NO dummy!
And he was in prison for preaching the words God had prepared for him.
He had done no wrong (at least as far as him landing in prison was concerned).
And yet he sent two of his own disciples to Jesus and asked “Are you the Messiah? Or should we wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
He doubted this “new” plan that God had for him…the one that included a prison. Just like you might be doubting this life that includes your financial poverty.
I think I have some encouragement for Those Experiencing the Pain of Poverty.
In The Bait of Satan*, John Bevere reminds us that Jesus is a “Rock of Offense” to those who do not believe (Isaiah 8:14).
Bevere points out that John may have been offended that Jesus came “drinking, eating and dining with sinners” when John’s entire ministry was about fasting, praying and solitary confinement…he may have wondered why Jesus had abandoned him…
Maybe you are like that. Wondering what you have done to deserve a financial prison.
If you are like me, you’ve done your due diligence: Gone to college, secured a good job, been as frugal as you possibly can with your money, maintained a budget…but nothing works. So you turn to God…You’ve fasted, prayed, repented of any sin you can think of…yet still the answer to your financial woes alludes you.
You don’t have a cell phone, you don’t have cable, you don’t go shopping and hardly ever eat out. When you do eat out…it’s a $5 Hot and Ready Pizza from Little Caesars that feeds your entire family for less money than you could have spent shopping at H-E-B. You, of course, let them eat it all and dine on whatever leftovers you can muster up!
This blog post isn’t intended to illicit sympathy…or more charitable gifts (seriously…don’t you DARE think about blessing me with anonymous money because of this blog). It’s intended to comfort those who are struggling to understand why God is letting you “suffer.”
In order to do this I want to look at Jesus’ response to John the Baptist:
And Jesus answered them, the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.And blessed is the one who is not offended by me. Matthew 11:5
Jesus is saying: I got this under control. I am the Messiah. I know where you are at. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Don’t be offended because I’m not doing things like you want me to…like you expect me to.
John the Baptist was never set free…a story we don’t like to think about.
We want a God that “prospers us just as our souls prosper” (3 John 1:2).
John the Baptist was eventually beheaded. This is quite opposite of what we want to hear.
Maybe God will deliver you IN THIS LIFETIME…but what if he doesn’t? Will you turn your back on him? Will you placate yourself with messages of false hope that assures you that God means you to be a millionaire on this earth only to be continually disappointed with an outcome you may never see? Will you lose your faith in God’s goodness towards you?
I want to share with you what I’ve heard a great woman say about giving birth without pain medication (I’m a total epidural girl but the truth still stands in her statement). She says:
Birth hurts…but it’s pain with a purpose.
I want to say the same thing to you:
Financial humility (aka financial dependence on God) hurts…but it’s pain with a purpose.
We can take heart in knowing that when we go to heaven it will be as the scriptures say:
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16:21
One day, we will remember the pain of our temporary poverty no more.
I know it’s not easy. I’m not saying it is. Today I’m okay with it…tomorrow I may be full of snot and tears again. But this is the lesson I’ve learned over the past ten years. A lesson that is near and dear to my heart.
You are not alone in your financial struggles, fear or lack of faith…I’m there with you. I haven’t been “set free” yet…and that’s okay. Maybe one day…but not today.
But let us join hands and say as Job says (Job 13:15)
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
Even if God never sets you and I free from our money troubles, let’s not turn our back on Him or question if He loves us, because he does!
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