John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
All true believers will have trials in life. I’ve certainly been through my share. I’ve even been known to avoid the books of Job and James, fearing that if I tried to study them, God might introduce some real-life examples. Trails come in many flavors, and God continues to use them in our lives.
Why? Because they’re effective – they get our attention. Hopefully, we can learn from them, and there’s always the underlying motivation of trying to get out of the trial as soon as possible.
Here are some thoughts about financial trials.
Financial trials are different from other types of trials.
First of all, it should be understood that financial trials and other trials like medical or marriage trials are perceived differently. Unless the medical condition is the result of one’s own wrongdoing, like alcoholism or smoking, for example, all will look with sorrow and empathy at a medical condition.
Not so with a financial trial.
Proverbs 19:7 illustrates this: “The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.”
No one will question why you have stage four cancer; they will question why you’re not employable, why you’ve depleted your savings, or whether or not you’re overspending. Something suspicious about someone with a financial trail is simply a given.
The loss of a loved one, a spouse, or a child is a trial that is instantly heartfelt and engenders excellent sympathy.
Even a marital dissolution trial is understandable. If you’re a relatively nice person, it will be assumed that the fault is with your ex. They were a jerk or, even worse, maybe unfaithful. In this day and age, it’s commonplace and perfectly understandable.
The bottom line is that there are few valid excuses for a financial trial. Maybe the most persuasive – a medical situation – but why didn’t you have adequate medical insurance?
Forget trying to justify your situation. Everyone, if tested hard enough, will experience a financial trial.
Learn from it and move on.
Your responsibilities are to work, save, and plan.
The Bible clarifies how we are to provide for our needs. Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:20 states, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” – so save. Finally, Proverbs 27:23-24 advises that we plan: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”
So, God’s strategy is to work, save, and plan.
Of course, your trial may be complicated. You might not be able to work; without work, you can hardly save. I understand, but you can plan, and there are other things you can do. Eventually you may be able to work again, when that happens, be sure you save and plan.
The bottom line is that God does have a plan to meet your financial needs – work, save, and plan. The other issues discussed below are ways God allows alternatives to satisfy your needs. Of course, this is all part of the trial.
Your relationship with God should grow.
Foxhole experiences tend to engender a closeness with God.
Someone with a steady income and $5 million in the bank is a perfect candidate with no need for a God. So is one in perfect health or with a great marriage? Why should they? Things are going so well; who needs a deity?
Trials, regardless of their nature, certainly push you closer to God. Hopefully, you understand that even after the trial ends, you’ll still want that close relationship. That, however, is something you need to address.
It is somewhat disconcerting to admit that before the trial, your God-felt need was less than it is currently. Could this possibly be one of the reasons for the trial? Maybe this is an opportunity to evaluate your relationship with God.
The trial is more significant than you.
Not that you aren’t critical to the functioning of the entire universe, but usually, the trial is much bigger than you. You see, God doesn’t waste effort, even on your trial.
We tend to be narcissistic. Indeed, the God of the universe is spending all His time and efforts on me with this significant and earth-shaking trial of mine.
No, you’re definitely in a trial, but others are included. Some recognize it, some don’t. Some learn and grow, some won’t. Trials can repeat if we’re unable or unwilling to discover and develop. This part is on you.
It is essential to understand that God will not waste His time if you’re not worth it. Trials, then, are a backhanded compliment. God is working on you because He thinks you’re worth it. Somehow, that isn’t easy to take, but it’s true.
God tested Abraham with his only son, Issac. He tested Job with his entire family and property and further tested him by letting him keep his wife. He certainly put the Apostles through trials, and we’re talking severe trials – trials unto death. Yet obviously, they were important to Him, and He felt the need to have them grow by trial – even trials by fire.
It’s the same with us.
Your relationship with your spouse can grow.
Your spouse and family are the first and most essential people impacted by your trial. Whether the prosecution is financial, medical, or whatever, your spouse is, like it or not, impacted. Often, one spouse has little power over the trials of the other spouse. They might not be able to provide financially, and you certainly are not able to take away their disease.
This can cause a rift or bind the two of you closer together. Regardless of who or what is to blame, you’re often “in it” together, and like growing closer to God, you can grow closer to each other or apart.
Hopefully, this is an opportunity to grow even closer as you go through the trial.
Many don’t respond, are uncomfortable, or respond out of emotions.
Understand, there’s not much you can do about, for example, a medical trial. Maybe you can visit the hospital or donate a kidney in an extreme situation. You can pray, however, and that should never be underestimated.
But, a financial trial seems to tug on your wallet automatically. It’s one of those things that everyone can help, will one way or another “feel the call” and, simultaneously, have that uncomfortable feeling of not wanting to respond. Sometimes, emotions take over, and someone will give due to their feelings. God can use that, and sometimes, that’s what’s needed to break through the barrier. Believe it or not, for many, giving is that hard.
Acts showed how believers are to be with others in need in 2:45: “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Some have mistaken this verse to promote Christian socialism. However, the word “give” is in the imperfect tense, which means continuous action. In other words, believers with means would sell property and possessions as the needs of others were made known. They didn’t all sell their property and live as socialists.
Believers and non-believers will have a different response.
Again, financial trials automatically tug on other people’s wallets – indeed, it’s an uncomfortable feeling for them.
There wouldn’t be a spiritual gift of giving if giving was natural and easy for us. It isn’t.
Now, both my wife and I have the gift of giving. I can tell you that we look at giving in a much different context. Sometimes, however, we’re in a trial and need to rely on the giving of others.
Indeed, we could have done some things differently in the past. Interestingly, we barely remember to whom we gave – we just felt the leading and gave. I don’t believe we would have given differently, even in hindsight. Even though we have learned new financial and spiritual things, we don’t see this trial as a result of “sins of the past” but rather as God’s preferred way of dealing with us at this time and our way of learning the most from a trial.
Unfortunately, non-believers, some of whom may even be your kids, will almost automatically assume a reason for your situation, conclude that you are to blame and feel reluctant to offer help. They would feel stupid and complicit if they did help. Much of this is a simple justification for a natural unwillingness to give. Regardless, it will let them off the hook, feeling they’ve made the right decision.
Believers will have a different response. They may or may not be willing to give, but whether they realize it or not, God is working with them also. Again, your trial is more encompassing than you.
It won’t matter that you’ve helped others in the past.
One of the interesting observations is that others you’ve helped in the past will either go into obscurity or come up with some of the more interesting excuses as to why they can’t help currently.
Not that we’ve even asked, but one way or another, your financial status seems to “get around.” Don’t expect a quid pro quo from those whom you’ve helped in the past.
Those you helped feel even more compelled to develop a substantive rationale as to why they can’t help you now. This seems to emanate from their guilt that you’ve helped them, and somehow they owe you. Again, this manifests itself even without asking.
All in all, it’s just an interesting observation.
You will realize that some are in nearly as bad a financial condition as you – at least according to them.
In the investment world, it was well known that individuals would only tout their gains. Even when their losses exceeded their gain, they would still tell stories about their investment prowess by citing their stock gains and ignoring the losses.
Additionally, many will expand on their job performance, raises, and promotions.
When, however, they are asked to help with, let’s say, through your financial trial, the story of financial woes abound. You will hear stories of what they genuinely owe in credit cards, how the IRS just banged them for $10K, and how their student loans are killing them. Also, their spouses have just lost their jobs, and things are not rosy. Or, indeed, it was not as rosy as they made it seem earlier.
The fact is, many are not in that great of a financial situation. Of course, the truth is somewhere between the two stories, but it’s certainly not as good as they’ve made it sound.
Indeed, they are subject to a financial trial, which they manage, usually by kicking the can down the road, and can only assuage their conscience by being critical of you.
Some believers respond out of their surplus, and others out of poverty.
When my wife and I would give in the past, we would separately pray about the situation and then get together and state what amount we felt led to give. Usually, it was the same amount. That was our simple way of determining if we should provide, how much, and if it was from the Lord.
It’s exciting to see how God is leading someone to give. To a degree, you feel like Paul, who not only appreciated the gifts but even more appreciated how the gifts would be applied to the giver’s heavenly accounts.
Most will do nothing, and that’s understandable. Some believe that this is a matter that the church should handle (and I’ll get to that below.) Others don’t even consider your needs and pass. Yet others are personally involved in helping in as many ways as possible, even outside of direct financial assistance or by slipping some money in their handshake. Indeed, they give out of love.
Finally, a small group will give, and you can see the joy in their gift since it’s genuinely Spirit-led. It’s incredible to see who God uses to provide.
One, an aged missionary couple, has given without ever being asked and in amounts that, out of their poverty, have been astounding.
Recently, they were given a gift to purchase hearing aids and revealed that they already had them so they could give away the funds. I would love to participate in their heavenly rewards.
The Bible doesn’t prohibit lending. It does prohibit usury – unreasonable interest. It also recommends against borrowing. Our giving guidelines were pretty simple. If we felt that someone had a need, we believed that that need was legitimate and from God and that if we had the means, we would give.
We never made loans. Proverbs 19:17 states, “Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and He will repay the lender.” Nothing destroys relationships more than an unpaid loan, and unfortunately, most personal loans will either be delayed or never paid.
Loaning is too messy, and all the examples of meeting the needs of other believers in the New Testament were by giving. There are no examples of lending, even with discounted or zero interest.
We’ve actually forgotten to whom we gave. That, however, is how it should be, God will remember. This is truly a Biblical principle as described in Matthew 6:2-4, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Your giving will come from poverty, including your time and talents.
Your financial trials don’t give you a license not to share. It becomes even more difficult since you must decide how to give when your income is uncertain. It then becomes an issue of giving your time and talents and giving out of trust.
This is not an easy position to be in.
A steady income makes for an easy determination on what to give back to God. Even though you can conclude that you are trusting God to continue that income stream, it becomes easier and easier once that income continues sustainably.
Not so with irregular sources of income. This requires determined prayer and trust in God to provide.
Perceptions will be the judge of you.
Please don’t have a nice car and home. Understandably, others will look at your vehicle, your home, and how you dress to make judgments. “His car is even more excellent than mine, and he has financial issues. I don’t understand. And look at his house…”
A fine line exists between sharing your financial trial and giving yourself over to an economic and personal audit. People only know as much as they can perceive, and you need to remember that a financial trial elicits far more scrutiny than sympathy.
We’ve noticed that those whom God has led to help us never, ever question our merits. They trust the spirit’s leading and are content with that alone.
This judgment is not only by third parties. Even though, for example, in a financial trial, we may not eat out, we would buy a pizza every once in a while. Once, while doing this, we saw other members of the church. Oh my gosh, they must think we’re financial phonies. I mean, how could we accept love gifts from some and go out and buy a pizza?
You must recognize that this problem should be their issue, not yours. What’s perfectly logical when you are financially able should not, in temperance, become illogical or wrong when in a financial trial.
Your church may or may not know how to respond.
Churches should consider the needs of their members as part of their leadership responsibilities. Suppose it is known that someone in the body of the church has a financial issue and someone in leadership has enough knowledge to evaluate the efficacy of the situation. In that case, the leaders should pray and agree on an amount that would be given.
Members should also be taught this concept, for they provide the funds.
This, of course, is biblical, yet I know of too many churches with no needy people since they never even consider giving to those in need.
Acts 4:33-35 guide us in this regard: “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.“
Unfortunately, too many churches pick and choose which biblical instructions to follow. Meeting financial needs is often just ignored.
God will ask you what you’re willing to give up.
2 Kings 4:1, 7 gives guidance here: “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant, my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” “She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
God provides in multiple ways. In my experience, I have too much. Am I willing to sell it to pay my debts? I better be. Doing so not only glorifies God for already providing a solution to your problem but also shows your faith in God should he wish to replace some of what you own.
One of the ideas to help us during these trials was to have a garage sale. Now, that may sound pedestrian to you, but to one in a significant financial trial, a garage sale is preliminary to moving.
So, are we willing to sell what we own and move to solve any particular trial? Again, this is trusting God and giving Him glory.
Others may not recognize this; it’s just a garage sale, but in a trial, you are even more sensitive to the leading of God and what He’s asking. At least, you should be.
You will be humbled.
Few things are more humbling to a man (especially) than a financial trial. Whether or not others judge you, you will be judging yourself. After all, it’s a man’s responsibility to provide for his family. The inability to do so is humbling, without a doubt.
Different social and economic classes even define a financial trial differently. To the lower class person, he is “unemployed” – probably the most honest. To the middle-class person, he is “self-employed.” And to the upper-class person, he is “an independent investor.” Financial trials are pervasive among all social or economic classes.
You will learn that you can live with less and be content.
If you’re in a financial or other trial, you might as well learn as much as you can. Who knew you could live without pest control or dental insurance? Who knew that T Mobile had a lower fee for those over 55 or that Directv had a WiFi service that was much cheaper and known as ATTNow? It’s time to evaluate every expense. Even a few bucks may be needed to fill the gas tank.
This is what the Bible means by “planning.”
The bottom line is that you must have a budget and know when and where every dollar goes. You don’t have extra funds to waste, and there are always ways to economize if you devote attention to understanding every expense you have.
There is nothing wrong with this, and what habits you acquire will certainly help when the financial tide turns.
The current banking system will pummel you unless you make some changes.
I feel sorry for poor people. The financial system treats them the worst. Even though their needs are more significant, they will be treated poorly.
It used to be that we received a bill, wrote a check, and sent it off. As time went on, these monthly bills became “auto payments.” What a great idea! You never even have to think about your bills; they get paid automatically. At least as long as you have a steady flow of revenue.
But, during a financial trial, you usually don’t have a steady and consistent flow of revenue. This means that auto payments fly through your bank account without enough income to cover them. Also known as non-sufficient fees, these transactions can cost $29 to $38 each or more. Also, annual renewals on various services you have forgotten automatically come flying through your bank account. You didn’t want to renew, but they don’t care, and the bank is only too happy to charge another NSF fee.
It’s no secret that banks seem to push these transactions such that they collect the maximum amount of NSF funds.
$38 is a tank of gas (except in California.) This never happened before the financial trial. You might never have had an NSF before your financial trial. Now, unfortunately, it’s too often.
So, you can look into a couple of things.
- Closeout bank accounts and set up new accounts to avoid the auto-renewal expenses – they can send an email of their failed attempt, and you can decide whether to renew or not.
- Set up your business and personal bank accounts with Fidelity Investments. Why? Because they never charge a fee. No NSF, wire, or account fees – no fees, period.
- You will have to plan the payment of your expenses – the autopilot is no longer plausible.
God will come through, often at the very last minute.
If you want to learn trust, go through a financial trial. God will come through, but He will often test you and make you wait until the very last minute. You must do all you can and trust but not presume on the Lord. Recognize that you wouldn’t be in a financial trial if He came through too soon.
That’s just the way it works.
You trust that He provides for your needs, and He meets those needs on His own time schedule.
A doubling of your efforts is not the solution to the trial.
I may already work on a non-paying business from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. Doubling down and extending my efforts will not, I’m convinced, resolve my trial any sooner. I need to become more aware of my efforts to spend time with the family, spend quality quiet time, and even devote Sundays to the Lord and my family.
I need to be confident that God will work everything out. I’m equally sure that it’s not going to be resolved by me doubling down.
It’s tough to ask for help and to know what to say and what not to say.
I’ve alluded to this before, but it isn’t easy to know how to share that you’re going through a trial, need help, and how much to share. Additionally, no matter what, God knows your situation and is already involved in helping you grow through it. His job is not to resolve it immediately, nor is it necessarily your job. You want to get it over with, but, as they say, the journey is essential, not the destination.
I don’t want to share what’s going on with everyone. I pray unceasingly about what I should be doing and trust that God works all things out for good. Eventually, this will work out to a normal situation, and I’ll look back to see even more of what I learned. At that time, I may be in a completely different trial. Who knows.
In the interim, it is clear that many are involved in my trial, and my responsibility is to grow during this testing period.
Be careful when responding, especially when you’ve not been thoroughly tested.
Some who, because of their job or bank account, are more than happy to demean you in your financial trial.
I must warn them you have not yet been thoroughly tested, and the Lord can change situations overnight. I would advise everyone to look at anyone God works with with awe and respect. Don’t assume that this can’t happen to you.
Just as with any trial, the loss of a loved one or a medical situation, this can happen to anyone. Equally, the imposition of a financial trial could occur at any time.
The bottom line is that trials are not a punishment – although certainly, God can use a financial punishment.
You’ll know the difference – although sometimes you may wonder…