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7 Ways to Cope when money is tight

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It happens to all of us at one point or another. Sometimes the bank account runs low and the squeeze is felt in the living of life.

Surgery bills come in higher than expected.

The car needs extensive repairs.

The teenagers eat large.

New tax laws take too much.

Kids’ activities grow costly.

Savings accounts dwindle.

Money ebbs and flows, and when the tide runs out it is only human nature to cling tight to the worry. Yet, God says to let it go.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

These things are easier said than done. It is easy to assent to the command, “Do not worry,” but hard to prove it out in everyday life. Intangible emotions are not easily controlled. How do you take your mind off of the money (or lack thereof), the insecurity, and turn it to trust? May I suggest seven highly practical ways?

1. Clean your house

Nothing will change your mind about your financial status faster than stewarding your stuff. As I clean each nook and cranny of my home, putting things back in their rightful place, I become painfully aware of the the quantity of things in my life and am reminded of just how rich I am. This labor pricks my conscience and urges me to never indulge in such frivolities again. When did my stuff begin to own me, instead of me owning my stuff? This time spent cleaning also occupies time that I may have used in spending money, or worrying about finances. Along the way I tend to find missing items that I would have otherwise replaced, or things that I have long since forgotten. Money found. The process of cleaning is therapeutic in and of itself, but the final product is a clean home that feels bigger, newer, and more lovely. It can bring a sense of satisfaction that takes a mind off of the troubles.

2. Increase generosity

A poverty stricken life is one in which we do not feel we have extra to give. An abundant life is one that creates margin by which they can be generous. Giving of my time, resources, and money reminds me that God has given me more than I need and creates a conduit by which God can distribute his resources to the world. And, in looking for the needs around me that I can fill, I take my eyes off of my own problems and peace begins to reign. It may be counterintuitive, but the less we think we have, the more that we need to give. Remember that house you just cleaned and all the “extra” things you came across? Give it away. Pass along the kids’ toys and clothes, share a meal with someone, give extra words of encouragement, tip a little bit more. Be wise, but be generous.

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper;whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25)

3. Keep your financial commitments to the Lord

Again, this will seem counterintuitive, but it is so important that when money is tight, we do not back down from our tithe and other commitments financial commitments to God. So often, God is stretching us financially to see if we will trust Him for what we need and believe Him for the money. Is He truly first in your life? Stand firm in your faith and watch Him work in amazing ways.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Malachi 3:10)

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

4. No poor talk

Such negative thinking etches deep into the mind, making money an idol and expressing ungratefulness for the what God has given.

5.Go back to the basics

A basic life can be a good life. Simple. Satisfying. Enough. Decades before us there was no internet, cell phones, cable television, or Starbucks. People managed, thrived in fact. What if living with only the basics meant that your creativity was stretched, your relationships were strengthened, time was found, and life simplified? Perhaps it could be a fun challenge, a new kind of game? In third world countries it seems that many poorer people are happier people. I don’t think this is coincidence.

6. Train yourself to trust

Trust is a muscle that grows, with intention, over time. Remembering God’s faithfulness in things big and small helps to strengthen that muscle, readying it for the trust tests ahead. When money is tight and the future uncertain, we can ask God to grow our trust and to help us to see and remember all of the ways that He has cared for us over the years. As we make ourselves sensitive to the gifts and blessings He sends our way, we have tangible reasons to believe that He will provide and care for our every need. Keep a prayer journal of answered prayer if you need to. Write out your blessings. Plaster verses all over your walls if you have to. Set timers to pray throughout your day if it is helpful. But, train yourself to trust the Lord in times of difficulty.

7. Thank God for what He is growing in you and Thank Him in advance for His provision.

Nothing we experience is ever wasted. It is all allowed for our good and God’s glory. This time of financial hardship is what He is using to refine you into the person He has called you to be. Thank Him for the richness of character that He is imparting to you as a result. And, thank Him in advance for what He will do. He promises that He will care for your every need. Do you believe Him? Thank Him now for what is yet to come. This is what a life of faith looks like. If your bank account was always full you wouldn’t have the opportunity to exercise faith, now would you?

It will be okay.

God will take care of you.

Take steps today to meet Him in the place of peace and security.

Trusting in the riches of Christ,

 

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Waiting for an invitation?

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My life coach asked me a question the other day, that got me thinking. (That’s what life coaches do, ask you poignant and strategic questions that make you dig deep, make your brain hurt, but help you uncover God’s purposes for your life and move forward in obedience.)

“Joy, how do you know if God is calling you to something?”

Okay, it doesn’t sound like it would be too hard for this pastor’s wife to answer, but when I had to look at my modus operandi I discovered a reality that doesn’t particularly please me.

“Well, I guess it would be that I place a 20% emphasis on my internal passions, and 80% on an open door/closed door philosophy. In other words, I often let circumstances dictate my calling.

“And how long do you allow yourself to wait for God to open a door?”, she queried.

Ouch.

“Probably not long enough. I am pretty impatient.”

“It’s not unlike God to make someone wait for 40 years. Isn’t that how old you are?”

“Yep. Good point.”

But that’s not all I realized from our conversation, the patience part I mean. I also realized:

I often wait for an invitation to my life.

You see, I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God. I figure that no one can thwart His plans and so what He desires will come to pass. I just need to wait on him to make it happen.

This is good theology. Yes?

You Calvinists would agree.

However, God has not called me to be passive towards my life. Faith is believing that circumstances do not determine our lives, God does. Yes, sometimes God does use circumstances to reveal His will, but faith is the evidence of things not seen. The people in Hebrews 11 faced incredible opposition and adversity.

Their circumstances rarely lined up, but they moved forward anyway, believing what God had revealed to them.

God is calling me to dance with him, to interchange obedience and resting, pursuing and waiting through the various seasons of my faith. In wanting to honor God by waiting on Him in faith, I often miss the opportunity to partner with Him in creating my life. 

I wait for the friend to call, instead of creating intentional friendships and memories.

I wait for the calendar to fill, instead of creating the days that make up the tapestry of my life.

I wait for the job opportunity to come along, instead of creating the work that I was meant to do.

I wait for the character qualities to come to fruition, instead of working hard to help them come.

Is my problem actually that I am not being assertive enough? Yes, probably. Is it based off of fear? Maybe. Is it my personality? You bet. Is it a more Calvinistic viewpoint? Perhaps.

Is it how I want to live the rest of my life? Nope.

From here on out, I want to be intentional in moving forward as I wait on God.

He is a God who loves to create, to orchestrate, to transform, to envision something better. I am made in His image, and there is nothing more godly than to create life.

So that is how I am planning to live my life from this point forward. I am going to move from the passions that God has placed within me (it always begins with Him), assert myself, and create the life that He is calling me to.

Let us no longer wait for the invitation to our lives, m’kay?

 

Following passion and playing with possibilities,

 

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How to Surrender

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My treadmill became a place of worship today.

As my feet pounded in time with the rhythmic music, my mind cleared and I began to absorb the worship songs. As I did, my spirits began to lift and I found myself soaring in mindfulness of God’s amazing personhood.

My God.

Savior.

Father.

Friend. 

Our spirits are released within us when we discipline our bodies. Our affections are captivated when we focus our minds on truth. Body, mind, and soul coming into alignment.

The worship came to a crescendo as a song of surrender played. My arms went up and my fists uncurled, hands raised to the sky.

Such is the posture of surrender. I give up. I relinquish control. I expose all that I have in my grasp.

I am wondering, what is it that you, that I, tightly clench?

What would come tumbling out of our life’s hands if we open them up wide?

Control over our future? Our children’s well-being? Honor and respect? Expectations? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? Anxiety? Fear? An idolized dream?

What would it look and feel like to live in complete and utter surrender?

Once, when I was struggling to forgive a friend that had hurt me, I held a pencil in my hand and extended it out in front of me. As I prayed, with tears streaming down my face, I told the Lord that I forgave her and I opened my hand to let the pencil fall to the ground.

I literally let it go.

That bodily act coupled with a verbal utterance of forgiveness set me on a path of healing. Open hands, surrendered hands, give us a taste of what a surrendered spirit looks like.

Surrender it to Jesus today,

whatever it is.

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