When you have money problems, you can experience significant stress. We wonder whether we can take care of hospital bills, whether we’ll have a roof over our heads, what we and our children will eat, and so much more.
God is sympathetic to all this and the needs and concerns you have: “and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 6:32 HCSB). God wants us to have peace, even when we’re going through a tumultuous time.
In For The Love of Money, the O’Jays warned us about the things that people are willing to do for money. “For the love of money, people will rob their own brother,” the O’Jays intone, warning us rather somberly. Money exerts such a powerful force upon us, and that’s probably because what we need to sustain ourselves – food, clothing, and shelter – can typically be bought using money.
It’s no wonder that in the New Testament, Jesus spoke about money more often than many other subjects. Money can make our hearts waver in our allegiance to God. Instead of thinking and living like God provides for us, we live like money is all we need. When you’re facing money problems, what do you do? There may be value in taking a moment or two to reassess your situation.
When it comes to money, there are so many dynamics at play that it’s hard to speak to every situation. Here are some thoughts aimed at the broadest level possible with the hope that something might spark your imagination, reduce your anxiety even if only a little, and help you cope with difficult financial circumstances.
What’s at the root?
Whenever you find yourself in a dire situation, it doesn’t hurt to try and trace your steps to figure out where things went wrong. It can help you understand what happened, which is useful both now and in the future. When it comes to money problems, having a clear understanding of what happened can help you figure out a path toward financial stability. There are several things to consider, including:
Identify what’s going on with your finances. You need to have a clear picture of the state of your money. In some cases, the solution for your money troubles may lie in making a few adjustments to your lifestyle or spending habits. Sit down with your receipts, your banking app or checkbook and track where your money is going, and how much is coming in.
Is it that you’re not getting enough in, or that perhaps too much is going out unnecessarily? If you find that you have enough coming in, but your expenditure is a little out of control, you may need to make a few cuts here and there.
However, you may make all the cuts you can, but find that your expenditure still far outstrips your income. In such a case, you may need to get creative in how to make up the difference. It may mean taking up a side hustle to generate some more income. You can also pay off the credit cards with the largest amount of interest owed first.
Perhaps for a while you can avoid buying brand name foods or buy your groceries at Aldi or Walmart instead of Wholefoods or Trader Joes, or you can seek assistance from a community food bank. It may mean relying on others to help you, like through carpooling. Finding out what’s going on with your finances gives you the information you need to make informed choices.
Are there any issues with addiction, such as gambling or retail therapy that might be a cause? Sometimes, money issues stem from concerns that require intervention and treatment. Money problems may emerge not because you don’t have enough to take care of yourself, but because the money is fueling an expensive habit. If so, you can find guidance from a Christian counselor.
Be ruthless with yourself.
When money problems hit, they can affect your emotional, mental, and physical health. Worry and anxiety over finances can be deeply upsetting. To preserve your health and overall well-being, sometimes you need to be ruthless with yourself.
That ruthlessness can take many forms, including making cuts to your budget as needed. It may mean taking any addiction seriously and taking active steps to have it handled. It may also mean being serious about accountability with money to make sure that you aren’t spending it frivolously and are putting some of it away where possible. In other words, being “ruthless” means being disciplined with yourself and taking whatever necessary steps you need to get things done.
Put a cap on your upward social mobility.
Among the sources of money problems is that we take on more than we can sustain. The American dream will draw us toward desiring upward social mobility as a marker of progress and success in our lives.
When we get more money, we often want to spend more money. We create a cycle where we are always needing more because having more is a sign that things are going well. We want a bigger car, bigger home, more exotic vacations, the best schools, newer gadgets, and so on.
This dream fuels our discontent. We need to consider carefully how it gets us to commit more and more of our resources toward something that can never satisfy. The idea is that the more we have, the happier we’ll be. The truth is that the more we have, the more we have to earn and pay to keep it, and the more stressed we become. Instead of bringing us peace, our stuff merely increases our anxiety.
We need to be deliberate about putting a cap on our upward social mobility. Some people decide that even though they earn more money, that doesn’t mean they need a newer or bigger car, eat out more, or move to another neighborhood. Some decide to downsize or bring a greater simplicity to their lives by owning fewer things. While this mindset may not immediately get you out of money troubles, it can help you make wise decisions as you go forward.
Money is one of those areas that we consider to be quite private. We don’t discuss our salary or what we own with just anybody. Privacy is well and good, but it can bring about poor decision-making in spending. If you don’t have anyone who asks you about what you’re spending and why, you can dig yourself a hole without anyone even knowing it.
As with every other area of our lives, we need accountability. Find someone that you trust and talk with them about your financial decisions. In those cases where you know you’ve been severely irresponsible with money, or addiction is an issue, you could give your debit and credit cards to a trusted friend or family member to ensure that you don’t make bad choices.
If you’re married, talk with your spouse openly about the financial decisions you’ve made and the state of play in the present. You and your spouse are in this together, and you should hold one another accountable.
Getting help for money problems.
There are many reasons why people have money issues. Many of them are things that people have no control over, including getting sick or injured. There may not always be any easy or quick solutions – sometimes you have to shoulder an unbearable burden for an unconscionably long time, and there’s not much you can do besides ask the Lord for provision and the strength to bear up under it.
God knows what we need, and he gives us grace to bear hardship (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Because God knows us and our situation intimately, sometimes the best we can do is pray even as we try to work through the situation.
We are reminded and encouraged to do this with this verse, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, HCSB). Also don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance from a qualified Christian counselor, who can help you deal with the roots of money problems.
“Show me the Money”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Unpaid Bills”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Online Bill Payment”, Courtesy of Rupixen.com, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Money Jar”, Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska, Unsplash.com, CC0 License