by Tim Howington
Managing our Emotions in Tough Financial Times
My Dad calls it a flesh break. I call it the tirades of a crazy man. The Lord calls it sin. I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the string of expletives coming out of my mouth. Even though I whispered my displeasure toward the Lord, I think my heart screamed inside. And to my chagrin there is no doubt that He heard me. It has been a long time since I had been that upset. Before I became a believer I had a pretty foul mouth but that was one of the things that I really hadn’t struggled with afterward. That is till I hit the wall: the financial stress wall.
The Scripture says that anxiety in the heart of man weighs it down. Said another way anxiety in the heart of man wears him out. Just like a marathoner hits the physical wall, a person who is dealing with ongoing financial struggles hits the emotional wall from time to time. Growing up in a chronically poor family, I saw it first hand with my Mom who must have had the patience of Job. But, ever so often she would lose it and have to work through her emotions. I would like to think of myself as strong, but the reality is that in challenging financial times my heart is full of anxiety and that little boy who was so self-conscious about being poor reappears with all his insecurities. I know that I am to focus on daily bread, but I am concerned that the bakery may break down in the future. Managing our emotions in the face of financial adversity is a key to managing yourself.
But how do you do that?
Pray for peace
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
The passage listed above is one of my life verses related to our topic. The peace of mind that I long for is found through prayer. One of my favorite experiences with this verse occurred in another late night vigil with the Lord (hmmm there seems to be a pattern forming here). I can’t remember what I was upset about, but I remember specifically complaining to the Lord about my lack of peace. He brought to my mind quickly this familiar passage along with some questions. Tim, are you praying about it? Have you presented your request to Me or are you just mulling it over and over in your mind? Are you thankful for the situation? I love the contrast of anxiety and peace, and to be honest this Biblical framework has helped me many a time to move to a place of God’s overarching peace that surpasses my understanding even when my circumstances haven’t changed a bit.
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?
Keep in step with the Spirit
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:19-25
It’s fun to watch my son connect with some of the TV shows of my childhood via Netflix. One of the most recent is Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. I love the image of the opening introduction where Gomer, who is a terrible marine, can’t quite keep in step with the platoon. His Sergeant is running alongside pleading with him to get in step. What a great image as to what Paul is saying in the passage above. We need to get in step with the Holy Spirit and when we do our lives exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. My ‘flesh break’ the other night exhibited none of those. As believers, the Holy Spirit of God lives in our hearts and will guide us if we will yield our emotions to Him.
Look to the Character of God
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32
I love the phrase, “If God is for us then who can be against us”. Do we believe that God is interested in our financial plight? You bet your boots He is. His benevolent kindness towards us is unmistakable for if He did not spare His own Son, then why would He not give us what we need to survive in this world. He takes cares of the birds of the air and the grass of the field and yet we are of much more value than they are. It is true that He allows us at times to sit under the pressure of financial stress, but that doesn’t mean that He is unconcerned. The reality is that He is concerned with much more than just our financial ease. He is concerned that we rightly relate to Him and one of His favorite tools is money pressure. With the pressure of money problems, we are forced to look to our Provider and trust Him to take care of us
Getting back to the other night lest you think I am a complete heathen. As soon as the words left my mouth the Lord convicted me of my sin and I repented. I am so glad that He is a forgiving Father who understands my weakness. I am so glad that He understands that there will be times where I will lose it and provides a way for me to confess my sin of anxiety and fearfulness and then gently guides me to a place of emotional wholeness.