Do you ever feel as though your money seems to burn up in your hands or at least flies out of your hands faster than you can earn it? Financial setbacks can be so discouraging and even heart-wrenching, can’t they?
My family has seen our share of setbacks in recent years. My husband, a public school teacher, has endured several forms of pay cuts over the last few years as a result of the economic recession, totaling close to 10 percent of his gross income–a significant drop for a family of six. Last year, in addition to a 40 percent hike in our health insurance premiums, we had a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses for the kids: pneumonia, hernia surgery, allergy testing, stitches, ENT visits, and so on.
To add insult to injury last year, our upright freezer died (or, rather, was killed during a defrosting attempt). Our main level heating/air system went kaput, so we forked out over $4,000 to replace it. Our washing machine bit the dust a few weeks ago, which we haven’t yet replaced. Our well pump had to be replaced last week, to the tune of almost $2,000. Our dishwasher seems to be on its last leg. Our upstairs AC system needs work. Our cars are 13 and 14 years old, so who knows….
That’s enough to make a person cry a bucket of tears. At least an emotional, hormonal, occasionally irrational girl-person like me. I get overwhelmed sometimes when I look at how much is going out versus what’s coming in.
At times, it seems like we’re under attack, financially. We just can’t seem to get away from the huge bills, much less have enough surplus to build up our savings to pay for future repairs. Have you ever experienced setback after setback in this area of your life?
I know that many of these are “first world” problems. People in much of the world can’t even fathom having an air conditioner or a washing machine or a dishwasher. We’re thankful for such conveniences, but they are expensive to maintain or replace.
So, how can we cope, and what does God say about how to handle these situations?
First, I’ve had to dust off my “trust” feature lately. I know in my head that God is my Provider. He has proven Himself oodles of times in my life, but this week, especially, I’ve struggled with trusting Him in the area of finances. I see more going out than coming in, and I don’t understand what He’s doing. I’m frustrated. I’m afraid. At times, I’m angry.
I was praying out loud in the car one day this week about the plumbing bill that we incurred, and I told the Lord, “If you want to use your money this way, so be it.” You see, it is His money. Everything is His (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). We’re only stewards, or managers, of His property. If He gives us a house or cars or children, we are to care for them, and sometimes that means large bills.
Second, a budget is an absolute necessity. Without a budget, it’s impossible to know how much is available for various areas and where/when to cut back. Some people like to use an online budget like Mvelopes or a software budgeting tool, but I still use a pencil and paper budget. I allocate money to each category every pay day, then when we spend, I deduct it from the appropriate area. Because we’ve been budgeting all of our married lives, we were able to dip into money that we saved years ago for all of the major expenses of the last couple of years and not incur debt. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to save for the last couple of years, and the reserve is getting dangerously low, but we have hope that things will turn around as the economy improves.
Third, we have to work hard at whatever the Lord gives us to do. I’ve been busy marketing our book to bookstores. Trevor has been brainstorming about extra jobs he could do over the summer to bring in income. We’re both working hard to get our house ready to put on the market, so we can move closer to Trevor’s work and save significant money in transportation costs. Of course, I still coupon for our food and household items; and since we’re home more over the summer, I’m cooking a lot and we’re eating out less to save money. We believe that it’s important for us to be proactive about expanding our income opportunities….not so much that our lives become unbalanced, but always being open to new avenues of God’s provision.
Finally, I have to understand that God has a purpose for this lean time in my life. If we look back at the life of Job, we see that he lost absolutely everything that was important to him. Everything. He didn’t know why God was allowing all of the bad things to happen to him, but in the midst of all of the turmoil, Job was faithful. He didn’t sin, and he trusted God to work it out. In the end, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had initially (Job 42:10).
Here’s the bottom line: God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He owns it all, and He has promised to provide for us (Philippians 4:19).
The key is trusting Him, while doing our part to be responsible and hard working and frugal. God will provide for our needs, because He said He would and if He says something, we can take it to the bank (pun intended).
So, if you’re struggling with financial issues, let’s pray for each other in our trying times. As Galatians 6:2 reminds us, let us “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”