Financial stress is not for the faint of heart. Nothing in my life threatens to undo me more than money problems. When things are going my way financially, my spirit is happy-go-lucky. I am generous and even sometimes others-centered. But, let the money get tight and I can get downright testy and unbelievably self-centered. Let the money issues linger over a period of time and I am susceptible to falling to the temptation that faced Job to curse God. Managing myself (my mind, my will and my emotions) becomes the challenge in times when there is no money to manage. In fact, one of the blessings of my life may very well be going through trying financial times that threaten to challenge my most core relational question with God: can I trust Him. Because it is during in these times that I get a chance to see what is really going on inside of me.
The most grueling part of financial stress for the believer is the haunting question of can I trust God. There is no doubt that this area causes even the most mature among us to pause. Case and point: Job. When Satan was given permission to test Job he immediately attacked him in regards to his stuff. The evil one’s strategy was simple: if he was allowed to ransack what Job possessed then Job would curse God. Some think that this is a once upon a time temptation that faced a man of antiquity. But I think we would be naive to think that we don’t face the same kind of challenge today. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says this clearly “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” This means that we all undergo the same kind of trials which includes financial trials.
The verse goes on to say, “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” God will not give us more than we can stand when it comes to financial trial (though I am sure that Job felt like he had gotten the raw end of the deal when Satan swooped in and took everything all at the same time including his children). There is a big lesson in there about how our enemy hates us. He didn’t just attack Job a little but like a prowling lion he went for the jugular vein and tried to take him out all at once. Jesus describes Satan as a thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy; while He describes Himself as the Good Shepherd has has come that we may have life, and have it to the full.
To live that kind of abundant life we must learn to manage our heart. Proverbs 4:23 encourages us to “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”. In Biblical terms the heart of man referred to his most inward self. Specifically the heart refers to our mind, our will and our emotions. If we can bring these three components under the Lordship of Christ in tough financial times we stand a chance to navigate the trial.
We must manage our Minds.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Paul is clear that our minds are a major battlefield when it comes to overcoming trials. The peace of mind that we crave during difficult times starts with what we allow our minds to meditate on. Isaiah says that “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You (Is 26:3).” A steady mind focused on the things of God will serve you well in tough times. Practically, that means that we don’t allow our minds to wander to all the worst case scenarios. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that we won’t experience the worst case. But many times, we borrow tomorrow’s trouble when today has enough challenges of its own. As we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness He will take care of the necessities of our lives (Mt 6:33).
We must manage our Wills.
Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
One of the best examples of managing the will is seen in our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. He desired to not go to the cross but was nevertheless committed to whatever the Father had for Him. How many times do we try to squirm out from underneath the trial and move to a more comfortable place? We cannot give into the temptation to move but must rather discern God’s will for the situation and then align our wills to his no matter the cost. Proverbs encourages us to, “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding.” During difficult money seasons we must exert our wills to manage the resources we do have and we must resolve to hang in there till the bitter end. And the funny thing is that most times we actually experience a better scenario than we anticipated because of the Lord’s loving kindness.
We must manage our Emotions.
Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I would like to think of myself as strong but the reality is that in challenging financial times my heart is full of anxiety. I know that I am to focus on daily bread, but I am concerned that the bakery may break down in the future. Paul’s encouragement in Philippians says that we are to bring all our concerns to the Lord’s attention with a thankful heart and the result is the peace of God. How many restless night have I endured because my heart was full of worry. How many times have I reminded the Lord that what I was experiencing was not peace only to have Him remind me that I needed to lay my burdens before Him.
Maybe you will run through this old world unscathed by the struggles of money-less-ness. But most of will not. Trials come in many shapes and sizes but managing yourself when there is no money to manage is one of the most common.
Tim Howington is Executive Vice President for Freedom 5:one and is one of our Financial Life Coaches. He lives with his wife Terri and son Josh in Rogers Arkansas.