The 2008 crash.
I was three years out of grad school, and three years into owning my first home.
I was making good money—for a journalist (read: enough, but not really saving a ton).
I was paying back a student loan.
Propane and gasoline prices soared.
I suddenly had to pay a greater portion of my health insurance costs.
My house was worth a fraction of what I bought it for, and I had serious questions about my job security.
Ironically, I’d never had so much, and my anxiety about money had never been so high.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
I knew it wasn’t healthy. I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I knew that others were losing their homes and their incomes and somehow I was still managing to pay my bills. Not only did I have work, but I had meaningful work. My anxious focus on fear carried more than a little touch of irony, and I knew it.
What helped was also ironic. In the parking lot at church, I shared my fears with a couple who had been out of work in an earlier recession. Today they were calm. They’d done it before and so the hard times before had actually taught them a little more trust, a little more faith.
What was reassuring to me was their resilience and their calm. We’ve done this, they said. We can do it again. You can too.
Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.
That helped me breathe.
Here’s what else helped: I needed to remember that people were struggling even as I feared that struggle. I needed to understand the difference between struggle and fear, and I had to get out of my own anxieties enough to see what was all around me. I wrote the biggest check I could muster and mailed it to an old friend I knew was scraping by. As it turns out, that was also the amount her family needed to get their car back on the road so they could get to work and home.
I saw God work through me in that moment, to care for a family I love, and right when it was needed. And my anxiety went away. Maybe it would have been smarter in a moment of anxiety to keep that for a future mortgage payment, just in case. After all, I’m no prosperity preacher. I don’t believe if I give money away that I’ll literally get richer.
But I do believe in living in gratitude.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.
I do believe in naming abundance and “enough.” I had enough. Anxiety in that moment was making me more fearful and less joyful, more focused on self and less on the needs of others.
So friends helped me remember a time when they didn’t think they’d have enough.
Seeing the real needs of others helped me release my own anxieties enough to embrace compassion.
This helped me to reimagine how, even in this moment, I could help and bless others.
And together, all this restored me to myself and to my God-given purpose, long before the danger was gone. Instead of folding in and retracting, I became a small point of light for a struggling world. I tended to others and in so doing, tended to my own needs. I was able to Respond & Rejoice.
This is part of my money story. This perspective on money has taught me a lot about controlling my emotions and trusting God and being generous in all times when fear is real and circumstances are beyond my control.
So – it’s worth asking today: What’s your money story?
This month, we are inviting you to:
Respond & Rejoice