How to respond to Financial Trials

John 16:33 states “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. 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 induce 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 with regard to financial trials.

Financial trials are different than other type of trials.

First of all, it should be understood that financial trails and other trials like medical or marriage trials are completely different. Unless the medical condition is the result of one’s own malfeasance, like alcoholism or smoking for example, all will look with sorrow and empathy on 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 or why you’ve depleted your savings or whether or not you’re overspending. Something is suspicious about someone with a financial trail – that’s simply a given.

The loss of a loved one, a spouse or child, is a trial that is instantly heart felt and engenders great 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.

Bottom line, there are few valid excuses for a financial trial. Maybe the most persuasive – a medical situation – but then, 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 is clear as to how we are to provide for our needs. In Proverbs 14:23 it 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, work, save and plan.

Of course your trial may be complicated. You might not be able to work and without work, you can hardly save. 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.

Bottom line, God does have a plan to meet your financial needs – work, save and plan. All of the other issues, discussed below, are ways God allows alternatives to meet you needs. Of course, this is all part of the trial.

 

Your relationship with God should grow.

Fox hole experiences tend to engender a closeness with God.

Someone with a steady income and $5 million in the bank is a perfect candidate to not need God. So is one in perfect health or with a great marriage. Why should they? Things are going so well, who needs God?

Trials, regardless of their nature, do certainly push you closer to God. Hopefully, you understand that even once the trial is over, you still want that close relationship. That, however, is something you need to address.

It is somewhat disconcerting to admit that prior to 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 really evaluate your relationship with God.

 

The trial is bigger 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, even on your trial.

We tend to be narcissistic. Certainly, the God of the universe, is spending all His time and efforts on me with this significant and earth shaking trial of mine.

Really?

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 have a way of repeating if we’re unable or unwilling to learn and grow. Really, this part is on you.

One thing that is important to understand – God will not waste His time if you’re not worth it. Trials then are kind of a backhanded compliment. God is working on you because He thinks you’re worth it. Somehow, that’s difficult to take, but 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 serious 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. 

The first and most important person impacted by your trial, is your spouse and family. Whether the trial 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. He or she might not be able to provide financially, and you certainly are not able to take away his or her disease.

This can cause a rift or it can 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.

 

Most either 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 at the hospital or in an extreme situation donate a kidney. You can pray, however, and that should never be underestimated.

But, a financial trial seems to automatically tug on your wallet. It’s one of those things that everyone has the ability to help, will one way or another “feel the call” and at the same time, have that uncomfortable feeling of not really 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. The word “give” however, 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 socialist.

 

Believers and non-believers will have a different response.

Again, financial trials automatically tug on other people’s wallets – truly an uncomfortable feeling to 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 do have the gift of giving. I can tell you, that we look at giving in a much different context. Sometimes however, we’re the ones in a trail and need to rely on the giving of others.

Certainly, 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 even in hindsight, we would have given differently. Even currently, 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.

Now, non-believers, unfortunately some of which may be your kids, will almost automatically assume a reason for your situation, conclude that you are to blame, and are consequently loath to offer any help. In fact, they would feel stupid and complicit if they did help. A lot of this is simple justification for a natural unwillingness to give period. 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 bigger than you.

 

It won’t matter that you’ve helped others in the past.

One of the interesting observations if that other’s to whom 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.

In fact, those whom you helped feel even more compelled to develop a substantive rationale as to why they can’t possible help you now. Obviously, this seems to emanate from their guilt in the fact that you’ve helped them and some how they owe you. Again, this manifests itself even without asking.

All in all, just an interesting observation.

 

You will come to 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 come up with 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 truly owe in credit cards, how the IRS just banged them for $10K and how their student loans are killing them. Also, their spouses just lost their jobs and things are just not rosy. Or, certainly 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 in the middle of the two stories but it’s certainly not as good as they’ve made it sound before.

Truly, they are subject to a financial trial of their own which they are managing, 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 their 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 lead to give. Usually, it was the exact same amount. That was our simply way of determining if we should give, how much, and if it was from the Lord.

It’s truly interesting 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 need, and simply pass. Yet others are personally involved in helping in as many ways as they can, even outside of direct financial assistance or by slipping some money in their handshake. Truly, they give out of love.

Finally, there’s a small group that will give and you can see the joy in their gift since it’s truly Spirit led. It’s amazing to see who God uses to give.

One, an aged missionary couple has given without ever being asked and in amounts that, out of their poverty, has been astounding.

Recently, they were given a gift to purchase hearing aids, and reveled in the fact that they already had hearing aids so they were able to 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 and that that need was legitimate and from God, and that we had the means, we would give.

We never loaned. 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.

Loaning is too messy and all the examples of meeting the needs of other believers in the New Testament was by giving. There are no examples of lending even with discounted or zero interest.

In fact, we forgot to whom we gave. That however, is how it should be, God will remember.

 

 

Your personal giving will be out of poverty and will now include your time and talents. 

Your financial trials don’t give you license to not give. In fact, it becomes even more difficult since you need to decide how to give when you’re income is so uncertain. It then becomes an issue of also giving your time, 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 for the continuation of that income stream, it becomes easier and easier once that income continues sustainably.

Not so with irregular sources of income. This really requires determined prayer and trust in God to provide.

 

You will be judged by perceptions and will even judge yourself. 

It will be nice if you don’t have a nice car and home. Understandably, others will look at your car, your home, and how you dress to make judgments. His car is even nicer than mine and he has financial issues? I don’t understand. And look at his house…

The fact is, there is a fine line between sharing your financial trial and giving yourself over to a financial 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.

What we’ve noticed is that those whom God has lead to really help us, never, ever, question our merits. They trust the leading of the spirit and are content with that and 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 every once in a while, buy a pizza. 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 have to recognize that any problem with this 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. If it is know 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, the leaders should pray and come to an agreement over an amount that would be given.

Members should also be taught this concept for it is they who provide the funds.

This of course is biblical, yet I know of too many churches who apparently have no needy people at all since they never even consider giving to those in need.

Acts 4:33-35 give us guidance 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, it shows your faith in God should he wish to replace some of what you owned.

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 not only to sell what we own but to move to solve this particular trial. Again, this is trusting God and giving Him glory.

Other’s may not recognize this, it’s just a garage sale, but in a trail 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 of 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.” Clearly,  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 an 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.”

Bottom line, it’s critical that you have a budget and know when and where every dollar is going. You simply don’t have extra funds to waste and there are always ways to economize if you devote the attention to understanding each and every expense you have.

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 worse. Even though their needs are greater, 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 and they get paid automatically. At least as long as you have a steady flow of revenue.

But, during a financial trail, one of the things you don’t have, usually, is a steady and consistent flow of revenue. What this means is that auto payments come flying through your bank account, without enough revenue to cover them. Also know as non-sufficient funds, these transactions can cost $29 to $38 each, or more. Also, annual renewals on various services that you have forgotten also 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 the bank collects the maximum amount of NSF funds.

$38 is a tank of gas (except in California.) This never happened before the financial trial. In fact, you might never have had a NSF before your financial trial. Now, it’s unfortunately, too often.

So, you can look into a couple of things.

  • Close out 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 to renew or not.
  • Set up your business and personal banks accounts with Fidelity Investments. Why? Because they never charge a fee. No NSF fees, no wire fees, no account fees – no fees period.
  • You will have to plan the payment of your expenses – auto pilot 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 test you and make you wait until the last minute. It’s important to do all you can and trust but not presume on the Lord but recognize that if He came through too soon, you wouldn’t be in a financial trial.

That’s just the way it works.

You trust, He provides for your needs.

 

A doubling of your efforts is not the solution to the trial. 

I already work on my 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. In fact, I have become more aware of my efforts to spend time with the family and my efforts to spend quality quiet time with the Lord as well as devoting Sundays to the Lord and my family.

I’m convinced God will word everything out. I’m equally convinced that it’s not going to be resolved by me doubling down.

 

It’s really hard to ask for help and to know what to say and what not to say. 

I’ve alluded to this before, but it’s difficult 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 what your situation is and He is already involved in helping you grow through it. His job is not to resolve it right away, nor is that necessarily your job. You want to get it over with but, as they say, it’s the journey that important, not the destination.

I don’t look to share with everyone what’s going on. I pray unceasingly what it is that I should be doing and trust that God is working all things out for good. Eventually this will work out to more of 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 period of testing.

 

Be careful how you respond, especially when you’ve not yet been fully tested. 

Some who because of their job or their bank account are more than happy to demean you in your financial trial.

I have to warn them, you have not yet been fully tested and the Lord can change situations overnight. I would advise everyone to look with a certain amount of awe and respect at anyone whom God is working with. Don’t assume that this couldn’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 happen at any time.

Bottom line, trials are not a punishment – although certainly God can use a financial punishment.

You’ll know the difference – although sometimes you may wonder…