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. Then, 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).
Together, 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. Together, we experienced it, 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!
Love this story. God is so gracious to us.
I relate to this so much! Thank you for sharing – it is a good reminder to me to focus on being grateful for what I have instead of looking at my “needs “list.
You’re so welcome Aimee! Thanks for commenting!
This same basic premise also works in other areas of our life: If we let go of our desires and simply accept the situation as it is, we can find joy even in the depths of difficulties. In saying this I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not talking about accepting abuse. Nobody deserves to be abused; if you are in an abusive relationship, don’t accept it, ever. But, for instance, I think we all have friends or even family members who have stopped talking with us, and we don’t know why; if we keep expecting the situation to be different, we are miserable, but if we accept that the situation is what it is, we can move past it and find happiness. It’s the fighting against that makes us miserable. It’s the same with material goods too: We are miserable because we don’t have whatever it is that we think we should have; but if we stop wanting it in the first place, we can find happiness with what we have. And for most of us, we have too much already!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
Great encouragement Katie. We have similar stories.. teaching, then staying home with our first babies and learning to live with a tight budget. I really appreciate how you share questions you used to probe your heart and not just approach your situation with surface level solutions. You are so right that it is easy to feel like we are entitled to things and experiences, when really we have more than enough in Christ already. Thank you for this reminder.
This is so timely for our family! Thank you for sharing Katie!
Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving
My story is so similar! I’m a teacher turned sahm, with a teacher husband, and we’ve experienced God’s undeserved blessings so many times! I was shocked at our recent tax appointment to realize that our income has dropped 48% in the past 2 years…yet thanks to careful budgeting and frugal living and God’s provision, I am still able to stay home with our children. God is good! Thanks for sharing your story!
K. Ann Guinn
So, so true! But so difficult to live out sometimes.
I needed to read this right now, as we are coming out of a long, difficult season of tight finances. Even though things have been “getting better” for the past couple of years, I still falter and struggle with my contentment often. I’ve written several blog posts which deal with contentment; I think I’m writing to myself more than anyone else! I’ve been good at being content (and disciplined) with less for shorter periods of time (several short periods of unemployment between my husband’s changing jobs), but when we had a longer period of unemployment coupled with my working only part-time as an aide at a private Christian school (with a very modest income), it was difficult to go for the long haul.
So I have seen God’s faithfulness, have surely grown a lot (perhaps in ways I have not yet understood), but admittedly still struggle at times with having a content and joyful attitude about our circumstances.
But you are so right. We are filthy rich compared to the majority of the world; we have more than we truly need in so many areas; we have wealth that is immeasurable in Christ and his blessings, and God is faithful in all situations.
I will review the questions you asked yourself in my own life and pray that God will continue to teach me to be more like him! Thanks for an excellent post!
Thanks for sharing this. I’m also going through a similar situation and I found your testimony helpful. It has strengthened my faith in God. I’ve never had issues with contentment but this has been hard for me. But, I’m determined to pull through. I know the Lord who has been assisting you will assist me too.
Wow, Katie! This was just what I needed to hear! Thank you for blessing me with this encouragement!
I realize this post is quite old, but I came across it on Pinterest at just the right time for me. Our family has been in the tightest financial position we have ever been due to a child with a chronic illness. The tight budget has me a bit discouraged. I am naturally very frugal, but feel restricted lately. I so needed this reminder that material things I “think” I deserve will never give me true contentment. I will only fund that through Christ alone. He gives us so many gifts, including the fact that our child is doing so well health wise now! Thank you for this reminder and God bless you!
Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear about your sick child but am so encourage to hear all is better. I understand all the financial frustration. You may want to check out Erin’s new book that is being released in September. It can be pre-ordered now with over $220 worth of free bonuses, some of which help with budgeting, etc. www.morethanjustmakingit.com