Sometimes a season of not getting or having everything we want is what’s needed to produce the good fruit of contentment, gratitude and trust in God. During these seasons of less, you may experience God’s unexpected gifts and realize you’re more than just making it.
By Katie, Contributing Writer.
During my young life I never worried about money. I had everything I needed and many things I wanted too. It never felt prohibitive.
After graduating college, I got married. Both my husband and I were new teachers, and eventually found jobs in the same city.
For two years, we enjoyed the DINK lifestyle (Double Income No Kids). We went out on regular dates, shopped at whatever grocery stores we wanted, and all the while, saw our savings account grow every single month. We bought a fixer-upper and joyfully began the work of making it home. We were able to fund projects right and left!
However, as my second year of teaching drew to a close, my belly also grew rounder. We were expecting a baby girl!
As planned, I handed in my resignation at work and welcomed my new baby into the world. With resolve and conviction, my husband and I confidently cut our household income in half, which is also exactly half of the average household income in our area.
We knew it would work out, because we felt God’s leading in this decision. So, we crunched numbers. We deleted many entire budget categories from our spreadsheet (and lives).
We worked those numbers hard, combing through them in multiple passes, each time shaving them down a tiny bit more.
We had wisely built up an emergency savings fund that would not be touched unless there was… an emergency. With this cushion, and after all our figuring, the numbers just, almost worked. They worked, that is, as long as we could manage to spend only $250/month on all groceries and shopping combined.
For the first time in my life, I had zero, and I mean zero, discretionary spending money.
Suddenly we were using cloth napkins and cloth diapers. My little real life baby doll wore hand-me-downs exclusively. If something broke, we did without it. I didn’t shop at garage sales or thrift stores, because I didn’t have a few dollars even for that. The home projects and improvements pretty much ceased.
I learned that hot oatmeal is filling and good in the mornings, and also cheaper than cereal and milk. We did without many things we had enjoyed our whole lives previous.
While there was never a sense of anxiety in our situation (in the years that followed, we faithfully kept that emergency fund intact), there was a feeling of frustration. I was not able to buy, see, have and do like I once had.
That reality was like a ceiling. I bumped into it week after week. It blocked my attempts to surface, and forced me back down into my situation. It forced me to face my feelings about it.
After months of experiencing a niggling sense of frustration and helplessness about it, I began to examine my heart. I wondered:
- Why do I feel that I need these things, which I apparently don’t need? (After all, I haven’t died yet.)
- Why do I feel entitled to nice, new things or fun experiences when in reality, these are utterly fleeting and ultimately meaningless in and of themselves in light of eternity?
- Why do I insist that something needs to change before I experience joy, peace and satisfaction in life, when I already have those things in Christ?
Over months, that feeling of frustration slowly gave way to acceptance. I was at peace with all the things I couldn’t or didn’t have.
In time, that acceptance produced a gem of greater worth than anything money could have bought me in that season: deep, unfettered contentment.
That difficult, good, refining, healthy season of financial restraint ultimately cut me free from my perpetual thirst for more.
God was still gracious, and present, and good in that time! Life was still an adventure, and even more so! When I fully surrendered my longings to him, I found that ALL JOY was still available to me!
I experienced many gifts from God as a direct result of that season:
- All our needs were met! We had the opportunity to test God many times by giving generously or showing hospitality when it stretched us. Just as you might imagine, there was always, always enough when we followed Him. In this way our faith grew. It was tested and proven.
- I became increasingly grateful for what I already had. Somehow, curbing the addition of “more” to my life helped me see plainly how much I had already been given!
- Instead of the perpetual shopping list, I got better at making the most of what I had, through hard work and diligence. I learned to care for things, do laundry more consistently and regularly, and even mend it!
- I focused in on my truer, deeper goals for parenting and my home, those things money can’t buy, rather than the surface-level aspects that absolutely would have stolen my focus had they been able to (knowing my own heart’s propensity to overvalue the wrong things). Instead of having my child look just so, I got excited about shepherding her heart toward Jesus and teaching her to be grateful and love people well.
- I gained a sense of satisfaction, born from discipline and diligence, that was exhilarating. My husband and I worked as a team. We made sacrifices, but we did it! We saw God provide, we learned contentment, and all that we gained was worth far more than all that we sacrificed to follow Him. We experienced it together, which was actually quite fun!
We were more than just making it. We were learning to trust God with our lives and to see a greater reality than momentary pleasure or monetary gain. I didn’t bank on any of that, but it happened.
This is the adventure of life with God, trusting and obeying.
If you feel compelled to grow in contentment, start by downloading these free decorative scripture cards and committing the verses to memory!
How have you seen good fruit in your life through a season of tight finances?