This post is actually from an email conversation I had a few years ago, but it’s still relevant. Both I and the person who wrote me thought it was a valuable enough conversation to put out there for you all. Hopefully, any of you struggling with finances can find a little bit of comfort and encouragement through some of the thoughts we shared.
The first email:
My husband and I left full time ministry about 6 years ago. I left our home as a full time Mom/wife/housekeeper etc.. to go back to work so my husband could finish school. To be most honest, it’s been a huge struggle. The man I love went through about an 8 year depression and I danced with it a few times myself! He has really had a difficult time with not knowing what he’s good at. Even with a degree he has been unable to find a job that appeals to him. We are both the kind of people that need to “love” what we are doing. Does that make sense??
His current job is not going well. He works for a “Christian” company and they treat their employees about as good as you sometimes get treated in the church! (as an employee) Recently we felt comfortable enough that I stepped down as office manager where I work to go part time. (I am still at my job, just lesser duties) So I go to work yesterday and was informed that they were giving me a $7.50 an hour pay cut. I about choked. It was all I could do to keep from crying…. The past 2 months, my husband is not getting the bonus checks he was and we are on the brink of financial disaster.
In the meantime this week, it becomes clear that my husband is depressed again. My sister called to tell me my Mom’s ovarian cancer has returned and she will go thru all the same chemo treatments she just endured. I told a friend that I was experiencing some peace in life and now I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I am observing myself wanting to fix and control. So I’ve sent out a flurry of resumes. I’ve thought of different things we would do to generate income. And yesterday I realized, that’s they way you used to do things! You don’t have to do this…Where is your trust and faith? Will doing the same things over again really get you different results?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know how to pray. I just sense this tiny nagging to relax and not worry. So faint I can barely hear it. Is that Papa? I just don’t want to screw things up with my controlling way of doing things again. I don’t want to take another job I don’t LOVE.
I guess I am writing to you because I admire your honesty, your relationship with Papa and your soft kind words that can rip people apart! I am not asking for advice. Just wanted to share and to see if you could draw from your experience any words of encouragement.
I told my friend how selfish I feel. I don’t know if I can or want to deal with another long bout of depression. Or being broke. Or being selfish! It’s a vicious cycle… I want off.
Thank you for listening to me.
Here is my response:
I am right there with you in so many ways, I really do understand.
A couple years ago, spring and summer of 2004, I decided that it was time to deal with the last “big” fear in my life: financial insecurity. Over the prior 11 years I had experienced a process of healing that almost killed me (literally) and as layers were peeled away this was one of the deepest.
So I decided to go on a fast (not something I do very often) and take my case up with God. My basic prayer was:
“I need to understand. I have trusted you with my finances all my life and we have had a very rocky time of it. While there have been a few good time, there have been many more devastations. There has never been ease or contentment and we have been broadsided so many times that I was sure the ship was going down. How come this fear still dominates my life when I have trusted you with our finances?”
I should have recognized that starting the prayer with “I have trusted you all my life” was evident of how self-deceptive I can be, but I didn’t.
On day five of the fast, God came to visit and very firmly confronted me. This is as verbatim as I can remember what he spoke to my heart:
“What? You have never trusted me with your finances. That piece of property you keep claiming is ‘mine’ (God’s), well, I can’t get my hands on it. Every time I try, you manipulate relationships, shade the truth, scramble, sometimes out-right lie, just to save it. You have never trusted me with your finances!”
I was stunned, floored and convicted.
I immediately knew that what God had told me was the truth. My response: “Okay then, I am finished! No more manipulation, no more hinting to people that I need help so they will bail me out, no more scrambling, no more shading the truth, no more lies…I am done! I am going to live one day at a time and whatever happens, you will be there with me. I am finished.”
Within six months, we lost the beautiful house on 2 and a half acres on a hill overlooking a valley, where we had lived for 17 years. We lost our cars. We lost virtually every material thing we had, moved to a small rental way out in the woods (where I began writing The Shack) and six months later into the smaller rental in Gresham where we live. Most of this time I have worked at least three jobs (jobs that Papa brought along) just to put food on the table and pay the bills.
This is the time of our lives when we learned that the opposite of “more” is “enough.”
One important side note: I have some brothers in my life who had the financial ability to “pull me out, rescue me.” I went to them and told them, “I know you love me, and I know you love my family, but God is doing something in my life so please don’t rescue me from this.” (I did give God a “way out” just in case. Such is being human and afraid.) “If God shows up as a burning bush or angel in the night, then maybe do something but otherwise, I don’t want you to interfere. You may be interfering with God’s purposes.”
And other than help with food and a few other needs, they didn’t help. A group of them even sat with me at the county courthouse as our family home was auctioned off, just to be with me.
But today I am free! Our time in Gresham has been one of the greatest times of spiritual growth in our family. Our kids had to make huge changes and they did with open hearts. I have no fear of money or financial security anymore. The imaginations of the future are gone and I have learned to live in the truth of the present, where Jesus dwells with me. There is nothing like losing everything to heal you of the fear and to learn that you have enough, each day. My life is full of joy! And it would be even without the book and all that surrounds that. I never invested any expectation of security in the book, and still don’t.
Would I like an actual office area rather than this desk down in this crowded unfinished basement with clotheslines on which hang my socks? Sure! But whether I have it or not makes absolutely no difference to me: This is what I have today and I am so grateful for it, so full of thanksgiving. Tomorrow is a myth and a drunk driver or a little wayward cell in my body could obliterate any expectation I could have.
I only have grace for today and in embracing a life being loved. I am FREE!
It is not about the finances. It is not about the jobs.
It is all about THEM! God alone is our life, our security, our joy.
As I read your words, it seems to me that one theme repeated in your words is the limitation that you want to put on Papa. You want to live a life of faith providing that God gives you both jobs that you love. That is the framework that binds your adventure and sets the bars on your prison. I think it also defines a great deal of the depression that you experience. Personally, I have never had a job that I loved, but I have been loved in every job I have ever had. I am not talking about the people I worked with (even though I have had amazing relationships within the context of every job I have had too.)
The still small voice you are hearing, that is PAPA! No doubt! He wants you to come home!
He wants you both to trust him no matter what happens, to live loved one day at a time. OPEN!
My heart is full for you and your husband. I know that you are not alone in this part of the journey. And know this, you are loved by a love relentless, and somewhere along the line you asked for this. You said something like, “I want all of You, I want to know You, teach me to trust, set me free, heal me.” Papa will always take those prayers seriously and go after everything that will prevent those things from happening. Thus the painful process.
We are alone, yet never alone.