“How irresponsible you are!” My mother-in-law’s face flushed red below her graying curls. “You’re expecting the rest of the family, or me, to pick up your bills! I can’t believe it!”
Her words put a nasty spin on our most recent decision.
A few years earlier, my husband resigned his long-held overseas job, and we moved our family to the US. After a few months of fruitless job searching, he started a small business.
We planned to live on his severance pay until the business could support us. Month after month, however, our expenses far exceeded our income. The benefits of the overseas job had masked the true cost of living. In addition, we had moved to an expensive area.
Searching for solutions
With my stomach knotted in worry, I cast around for solutions. Credit card debt seemed a hole we shouldn’t start digging. If we couldn’t afford something right now, how could we be sure we could pay for it later?
All around us, wives worked to help meet expenses, but that option didn’t seem realistic for us. My husband and I both felt that our four children — especially the older two, already in their teens — needed me at home to help them navigate the new culture.
In desperation, I voiced my fears to God. “Lord, you know our circumstances. You love and care for us. What can we do?”
I read the Bible, clutching at the promises I found there. Hebrews 13:5, 6 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. . . .’”
I wanted that fearless confidence. Instead, my growing anxieties revealed my uncertainty about God’s willingness to meet our needs. Why was I anxious? I’d experienced God’s loving answers to prayer in the past. But in those days, we’d always had a salary and money in the bank. Had I been depending on them instead of on God?
The verse in Hebrews commanded me to be content with what we had. We spent more than came in every month. Was that a form of discontent? What if our income never went up?
Perhaps instead of looking for ways to increase our income, I should reduce expenses. I couldn’t imagine what we could cut, but God could show me. I just had to look for His way, not mine.
Another verse sprang to mind: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
What an amazing promise! But perhaps depending on His promise meant relinquishing anything He didn’t consider necessary. Was I willing? I asked God for courage to examine our expenses in His light.
My husband and I agreed on the first step: no more eating out or buying little treats like French fries, ice cream cones, and hot coffee. Clearly, none of these were necessities.
Then I studied our other expenditures. Some monthly expenses were obviously necessities: rent, utilities, gasoline, and food. Some, like taxes, had to be saved for. And I didn’t consider tithing optional, for long ago I’d learned that God gave us enough money for other expenses if we tithed.
I couldn’t discern any nonessentials. We had to set aside money for future needs, didn’t we? What if our car stopped running or someone had to have new shoes or a jacket? What if one of us got sick?
Jesus’ words about anxiety in the sixth chapter of Matthew seemed written just for me: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow . . .” (Matthew 6:33, 34).
God’s comfort enveloped me every time I read these words. They reassured me that He knew my struggle and had answers. I just had to believe Him and act accordingly.
Simple. But not easy.
I took a deep breath. For now, car repairs and clothing needs were tomorrow’s worries.
One large expense was the family health insurance. We had been paying the monthly premium from our rapidly dwindling savings. To live on our income, we had to choose between paying for daily necessities or health insurance. Together, my husband and I concluded that at that moment, even medical expenses were tomorrow’s worries.
Not long afterward, my mother-in-law asked some probing questions about our medical care. Our answers infuriated her. By her standards — and the world’s — such thinking was simple-minded.
But the Bible’s promise was clear: “My God will supply every need of yours . . .” (Philippians 4:19). Now each time my husband brought home money, I focused on putting something aside for taxes and tithes, paying the rent, and buying groceries and gas. Once that was done, I asked God to help me not fret.
And truly, car repairs, clothes, and medical expenses weren’t that day’s needs. The car was running, and all of us were healthy and clothed.
Time passed. I learned to cheerfully accept piles of hand-me-down jeans and T-shirts. We bought winter clothing from thrift stores on “dollar days.” We inherited beds, sheets, blankets, and towels from relatives moving to smaller homes.
For only a few dollars, garage and estate sales furnished us with whatever else we needed. A large box of blank paper for $2. An office chair for $5. A couch for $2.50. Two pairs of just-the-right-size new leather shoes for $10 each. Month after month, I was surprised how our needs were met, one day at a time.
One week after making a grocery list, I checked how much I had to spend. Seventeen dollars? I leaned back in the kitchen chair and laughed out loud. How could I buy a week’s groceries for a family of six with only seventeen dollars?
I dropped my face into my hands. “God, You know what we need and how much money we have. Help me see how to manage.”
As I slid open the kitchen all-purpose drawer, scavenging for the few coins in the corners, a small voice inside asked, “Do you really need all those groceries?”
I studied the list. We still had milk in the fridge, so I didn’t have to buy a second carton now. We still had some sugar and flour. We needed meat, some vegetables, and fruit, but not foil or paper towels. Not yet. I rethought each item, crossing out whatever could wait.
With the much shorter list in hand, I went to the store, collected the true necessities, and rolled the cart up to the cashier. The total came to seventeen dollars and some cents. The coins I’d dug out of the corners of the drawer just covered the extra.
A flood of joy and awe washed over me. God really did care about meeting our needs! I drove home from the store, rejoicing.
Step by step, God turned my struggle into a beautiful adventure. Each time I turned to Him, He demonstrated His love. Instead of being a shameful burden, our dependence on God for financial solutions led to joy. Now I knew how Paul could say in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
The children graduated from high school and then from college. God met every need along the way — even medical expenses, despite my mother-in-law’s forecasts. In recent years, we’ve joined a health-sharing program.
God is the source of my security now, not medical coverage or money in the bank. And if sometime again we don’t have what the world might call enough, I know I do not need to be afraid. God really is faithful and good.
Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.