Question for Joel: Finances and Giving

Good Morning Joel,

I just need some guidance. I’m filled with worry and stress as I don’t have enough money to pay my bills. I pray to God, trying to turn it over to Him, and then I keep taking it back. How do I stop doing this?

Thank you so much.

PS I’m unable to donate money right now, but do have other gifts (I am so blessed to have) that I hope I will be able to share with the church family as I volunteer for different things. I have always been active and participating in church needs in the past. My church family, community, has always been very, very important to me (gotten me through things in my life that I don’t know how I could have done it alone) and I’m so excited about getting to know and being part of my new church family.

Joel’s Response:

I am so sorry to hear about the burden you are carrying right now.

Your question is a good one. Without knowing the details of your financial situation, here are some basic questions that might help you process through this difficult challenge that you are facing at this time:

Re: the bills…We all obviously have an obligation to pay our debts. The question is…HOW?

[1] Does your financial situation appear to be a short-term or long-term issue?

[2] If you do not have enough money to pay your bills what are your options for reducing your bills. This may take some creativity. (consolidation? selling? lending?)

[3] Have you received some good financial counsel? I would recommend you doing so.

In the meantime, these next principles, if applied, will help you manage the potential worry/stress in your life:

[1] Separate what’s most important from what’s not important. Separate your needs from your wants. At the end of the day, what are the things that you really, really need? Make a list of those things — and why you need them. Try not to compare with what others have. >> This is important to process because there are some people who get stressed out about not being able to live a lifestyle that they may want, but don’t really need.

[2] Realize that we are all blessed…and thank God for whatever you do have — even if it’s not what you want. Gratitude is a critical step on the pathway to joy. People who aren’t thankful aren’t joyful.

[3] Find your satisfaction fully in Christ. Casting our cares on God can’t happen as long as we look to other things/people as meeting our deepest longings. Allow God to re-prioritize your values if that needs to take place. Put Him first & you will find peace restored in your life…even if it means that you have to make some lifestyle adjustments. As you make Christ your greatest treasure, the other things in your life will become less valuable. (Mt. 6:33) After all, isn’t it true that most of the best things in life cannot be purchased anyway? (ex: friendships, ministering to others, confidence & peace that comes from making wise & healthy decisions, etc.)

Sometimes, we think that a prayer of “God, I trust You…Please take away the stress in my life” will take away our stress. The truth is, God needs to sit on the throne on our lives. When that happens, THEN we’ll find peace from the Prince of Peace.

Contrary to popular belief, circumstances do not cause stress. Difficult circumstances only provoke the stress (or, lack of peace) that’s already within us to come out of us. Does that make sense? I need to realize that my lack of peace does not come from some external thing. It comes from within me. That’s tough to admit…but there are plenty of people in the world with MUCH more difficult circumstances than I have that have more peace than I do. So, as I seek God, abide in Christ (John 14-15) and allow God to change me on the inside, then the outside things don’t “cause” me stress…instead they simply test me. If I am right internally, then regardless of my circumstances, I can be at peace externally. (But that doesn’t exempt me from doing whatever I possibly can to be financially responsible.) The reason why Paul was able to say what He says in Philippians 4:11-13 was because of what He lived out in Philippians 3:7-15.

I appreciate your desire to be generous & understand your inability to do so financially at this time. As you mentioned, there are many ways we can be generous. That said, I would still encourage you to give something — even if it’s $5/month or whatever. Let that gift simply be a demonstration that God comes first in your life & to remind you that money is not your God…God is (Luke 16:13). Don’t worry so much about the amount and consider more what it means to trust God & to put Him first. I have found that God loves to reward (in various ways) those who put Him first.

My heart truly goes out to you. We are here to support & love you.

Love & blessings!

-Joel

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