My friend Janet and I chatted and sipped cappuccino at the coffee shop. I complained about an insufficient salary and the mounting bills since my son had entered college.
Due to across-the-board cuts, I had lost a good job. After much praying and searching, I took the only thing I could find: a job with lower pay and fewer benefits. In my former position I was financially comfortable and didn't have to worry. But my new position was mediocre, and my financial responsibilities were great.
Janet and I occasionally made a spiritual comment, but the underlying theme was complaint rather than praise--and worry rather than trust.
Our conversation turned to the past, and we reminisced about the financial hardships we had experienced years earlier. We both agreed that as difficult as those years were, we had frequently seen God miraculously answer prayer and provide our needs.
Remembering God's provision
I remembered one particular occasion when I cried, "Lord God, things are so difficult — I don't have dish soap, or shampoo for the children's hair."
Later that morning a friend visited. When she did so, she always brought a gift, and that day she carried a brown grocery bag.
"I'm so sorry — this is all that I could bring," she apologized as she pulled out a large bottle of baby shampoo. "And this," she added and pulled out a large bottle of dish soap. Then she handed me a bag of freshly baked granola cereal.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. God was the only one who had known my needs. He wasn't far off in Heaven somewhere — He was with me and He cared. That day I realized He was concerned about my personal needs and He would answer my prayers. I began praying and He began answering.
Plastic or prayer?
However, through the years I began to trust in my own capabilities and career and, at times, I trusted other people. Janet also talked of how in the past the Lord had provided for her needs. Then she asked, "Why do we have so much trouble trusting Him now?"
I said, "We don't want to have to trust Him — instead we make impulsive decisions. When we face a financial crunch, we rarely pray and expect God to provide. Instead, we worry about our bills, we borrow money, we pull out our credit cards, and we get deeper in debt. We focus on the problems — instead of on God." When Janet and I said good-bye, I was discouraged and wondered if other Christians experienced a similar lack of trust.
Misunderstanding God's goodness
I was a single mom with a son beginning college, and finances were critical. Maybe I wasn't in the right job. I had to find out. My search began the next morning as I read Hebrews 11, seeking the definition of faith and how I could apply faith to my life:
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:1,6).
Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who saw God work miracles amid their circumstances, people "whose weakness was turned to strength" (Hebrews 11:34).
How could I turn from worrying and complaining to trusting and living the life of faith depicted in Hebrews 11? I prayed and wondered. If Daniel could face a den of lions and if Moses could lead the Israelites out of Egypt, I knew that I could trust God to guide me.
With an updated résumé I went out to look for a job with excellent pay and benefits. A few weeks later, Janet and I met over another cup of cappuccino. We were eager to hear each other's progress.
I said, "Janet, you're not going to believe my discovery. After studying the job market and making some contacts, I found the very best job for this season of my life — it's the one I have!"
I had misunderstood God's goodness. My complaining had discouraged me, and I felt defeated. My job, which I had thought was inferior, was really God's gift to me. Instead of complaining about what I didn't have, I began to be thankful for what I did have, including the benefits and opportunities of my job.
A new, more creative lifestyle
I realized that my limited income required a change in lifestyle.
- I used to think that "sale" meant, "buy." I had to change that attitude — so I tore up a mountain of credit-card applications.
- Limited funds were pressing me into an uncomfortable new lifestyle and into financial planning. Following a tight budget would be essential if my son and I were to live within our means.
- Budgeting stimulated creative new thinking. Instead of discarding faded sportswear, I dyed it and renewed the outfit. A "dollar" store became a favorite place to hunt for needed items. Rather than purchasing expensive greeting cards, I bought fine paper and made cards with my computer.
- For special occasions, I made gift baskets with delicacies from the kitchen. After years of not sewing, I resumed doing so and made gifts with a personal touch.
As I applied Bible promises and principles to my circumstances, I began to appreciate the job about which I had previously complained. With an industrious spirit and a more disciplined attitude toward spending, I was able to cut my expenses significantly.
I realized that the pressure of being "squeezed" had produced benefits. Through prayer, sacrifice and determination to resist impulsive measures, I can live debt-free, have peace of mind, and trust and know God better. When Janet and I complained about unstable finances, ingratitude dulled our vision. Doubt and fear consumed and defeated us. We talked about faith but lived in doubt; we focused on circumstances instead of on the Source of faith.
When I focused again on God instead of on my problems, and resisted credit cards and quick fixes, He showed me that He is greater than all my needs. Living life filtered through His promises changed me — beginning with my attitude — and instead of just talking about trust and faith, I began to live it.