It was one of the best days of my life! I had accepted a job working with Young Life, a ministry that I had met the Lord through and was extremely passionate about. I would have the opportunity to serve a community of leaders, committee members and students in a mission of reaching out to all kinds of kids in our area. For seven years it was everything I dreamed it would be- until the Lord started laying another passion on my heart. It became clear that I needed to resign my position with Young Life and help people learn how to manage their lives and money according to God’s direction.
This wasn’t just a job change for me; it meant leaving a huge part of my life. The staff I worked with had become family, I had met my wife through Young Life, and some of my closest friends were serving with this mission. It was heart breaking to leave.
The transition was a very difficult time for Danielle and me. Our community was changing, our income was interrupted, and we had no idea when or if I would start a new job. I had gone from being the director of one of the largest outreach ministries in the area to a guy doing odd jobs like shoveling pea gravel and piles of dirt to make ends meet. It was a drastic change for us, and we were doing whatever we could to stay afloat both personally and financially.
Some challenges build slowly and can be anticipated; others appear without warning. Some are resolved quickly; others are chronic. Some reflect the consequences of our actions; others are completely beyond our control. Some crises impact an entire nation; others affect us as individuals.
A job loss, major illness, birth of a special-needs child, business reversal, death of a family member, identity theft, military deployment of a breadwinner, home foreclosure, bankruptcy, or worldwide financial crisis can exert major pressure on us and our finances. These storms of life range form blustery rain showers to category-five hurricanes, and surveys reveal that many marriages don’t survive them.
Although storms are often emotional, scary, and painful, if we maintain God’s perspective, we can survive and even grow through such dark days and nights.
When facing a crisis, nothing is more important than knowing who God is – His love, care, control, and power. Only the Bible reveals the true extent of God’s involvement in our challenges. If we have an inadequate or warped view of God and His purposes, we won’t fully embrace and learn from our challenges. What’s more, we will forfeit the peace and joy that God makes available to us in the midst of the storm.
God Loves You
First John 4:8 sums up God’s nature: “God is love.” God loves you, and throughout your whole life remains intimately involved with you as an individual. Psalm 139:17-18 reveals, “How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand!” In other words, the Creator of the universe is always thinking about you!
When you think about it, John 15:9 has to be one of the most encouraging verses in all of the Bible. Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Don’t skim over those words; let the implications sink in for a moment. Consider how much God the Father loves God the Son. They have existed forever in the closest possible relationship with a deep, unfathomable love for each other. And Jesus says this is how much He loves you!
In any crisis, it’s crucial to be reminded of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Why? Because it’s so very easy to become discouraged and even lose hope in such times. It’s easy to forget God’s love and care for you, especially when adversity first strikes—or goes on and on for what feels like an eternity.
Jeremiah the prophet was completely discouraged. He wrote: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness…and my soul is downcast within me” (Lamentations 3:19-20). But then he remembered the Lord, “Yet I call this to mind and therefore have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
It is helpful to meditate on passages such as these: “…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35, 37).
I’ve discovered that even in a crisis, the Lord will do kind things that offer clear evidence of His love and care for us. Consider Joseph. While a slave, “[Joseph’s] master saw that the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:3), so his master put him in charge of all he owned. Later in prison, “the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer” (Genesis 39:21).
God Is In Control
As we studied earlier, God is ultimately in control of every event. This is but a sampling of passages that affirm His control: “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). “We adore you as being in control of everything” (1 Chronicles 29:11, TLB). “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth” (Psalm 135:6). “My [the Lord’s] purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10). “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
The Lord is in control even of difficult events. “I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these” (Isaiah 45:6-7).
God Has A Purpose For Adversity
The Cecropia moth emerges from its cocoon only after a long, exhausting struggle to free itself. A young boy, wishing to help the moth, carefully slit the exterior of the cocoon. Soon it came out, but its wings were shriveled, and couldn’t function. What the young boy didn’t realize was that the moth’s struggle to liberate itself from the cocoon was essential to developing its wings – and its ability to fly.
Much like the cocoon of the Cecropia moth, adversity has a part to play in our lives as well. God uses those difficult, sometimes heartbreaking times to mature us in Christ. James 1:2-4 says it this way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
God designs challenging circumstances for our ultimate benefit. Romans 8:28-29 tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son….” And the primary good that God works in our lives is to make us more like Christ.
We see this same thought expressed in Hebrews 12:6, 10-11, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines….God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” God makes no mistakes. He knows exactly what He wants us to become, and also knows exactly what is necessary to produce that result in our lives.
Alan Redpath captures this truth: “There is nothing – no circumstances, no trouble, no testing – that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God, past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is.”
Danielle and I have endured – and benefited from – many storms. The one surrounding my job transition drew us much closer to each other and to the Lord. Through the challenges we faced, many of the Bible’s truths grew from wispy theory into rock-solid reality. We began to grasp how deeply God loved and cared for and provided for us. Although we would never want to repeat this experience, we are incredibly grateful for how the Lord used it in our lives.
Author Ron Dunn observed: “If God subtracted one pain, one heartache, one disappointment from my life, I would be less than the person I am now, less the person God wants me to be, and my ministry would be less than He intends.”
Please don’t miss this point. You and I need to: recognize difficulties as opportunities to grow into the people God wants us to be. In adversity we learn things we just couldn’t learn any other way. Regardless of the magnitude of the crisis, large or small, the Lord wants to use theses incidents to draw you closer to Him.
You can be comforted knowing that your loving heavenly Father is in absolute control of every situation you will ever face. He intends to use each circumstance for a good purpose. First Thessalonians 5:18 says it well, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We should view crises through the lens of God’s love, faithfulness and control.
One of the biggest challenges during our job transition was fully trusting that God would provide for us. It was pretty easy trusting the Lord when we had a weekly paycheck, but this was different. Where were this week’s groceries going to come from, how were we going to pay our mortgage this month, what if we got sick or injured without health insurance?
Questions like these consumed my thinking and filled me with anxiety and fear. When I finally “let go” and realized that I couldn’t control these situations, we began to see God’s provision in amazing ways! Friends brought meals, and people we barely knew sent us money. We settled into a pattern of working as hard as we could each week and waiting to see how God would provide what we couldn’t.
I had never before been so conscious of fully trusting and depending on God. Our relationship with Him grew as stress, fear, and anxiety were replaced by awe in seeing how He provided for us on a daily basis.
The Bible makes it clear that God offers security only in Himself – not in money, not in possessions, not in a career, and; not in other people. External things offer the illusion of security, but the Lord alone can be fully trusted. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7, niv). “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).
The Eye of the Storm
There are several things we can do to survive – and even grow – when we find ourselves in the storm.
Get your Financial House in order
I’ve been close to many people facing gut-wrenching financial storms. And the first question they usually ask is, “How can I solve the problem?”
Jesus answers the question this way in Matthew 7:24-25: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
The key to solving your financial problems is learning and applying God’s way of handling money. It truly is that simple. That’s why this study is so important. When you finish this class, you will know God’s framework for managing money. But knowing is only half of what you need. The other half is applying what you have learned. It may take a long time and a lot of effort to navigate the storm, but you will know the basics of what you should do.
Part of what you’ve learned is to be a generous giver. When facing a financial crisis the tendency is to hold on tightly to what we have, and become less generous. A passage in the book of Acts, however, shows us a different way. In Acts 11:28-29 we read: “Agabus [a prophet]…through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.”
Think about this. The Holy Spirit revealed through a prophet that a severe famine was coming soon, and their first reaction was to get out their checkbooks! Don’t allow a crisis or a pending crisis to stop you from remaining generous. You may not be able to give as much as you did previously, but continue to give.
It’s also important to quickly evaluate how the circumstance will impact your finances, and to make the necessary adjustments for any diminished income or increased expenses. And don’t forget to communicate! Talk to the Lord. If you are married, tell each other your feelings and concerns. How important is this? It’s important enough to schedule a time every day to share, so you can encourage each other. Danielle and I discovered that a crisis doesn’t have to damage our marriage; in fact, it can be a catalyst to improve it. I am fully persuaded that God intends married couples to grow closer together during a crisis rather than allow the difficulties to damage their marriage.
Never go through a storm alone
I want to emphasize the importance of not going through a storm alone. It is almost impossible to make the wisest decisions in isolation when experiencing a crisis.
Seek advice from people who have been through similar situations as you. You will draw strength not only from their emotional support but also from their experience. There are people all around you who have weathered serious life storms, and you can gain from their knowledge, learning mistakes to avoid and resources to help. Ask your church and friends to pray; it’s their most powerful contribution.
Live one day at a time
Robert Jones built an extraordinarily successful construction business from scratch. He was extremely generous and enjoyed a wonderful reputation. Then came the crushing financial crisis of 2008—crippling his business and pushing him to the brink of bankruptcy.
Confiding in me one day, Robert said, “In a crisis, the tendency is to look ahead and become overwhelmed with all the problems. We are to plan ahead, but for our mental and emotional health we must follow what Jesus Christ told us: “…do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, niv).
Live focused on today! And if the crisis becomes severe, focus on one moment at a time in close fellowship with Christ. This is not “escape from reality,” but rather; it is a practical way to stay close to the only One who can help us through the challenge.
Be patient, waiting for God’s timing
Expectations can be damaging during a crisis. When we assume that the Lord will solve our problems in a certain way by a certain time, we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.
Someone described patience as accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline for removing it. Remember, God’s primary purpose in allowing a crisis in the first place is to conform you to Jesus Christ. He is at work in your life, and knows exactly how long it will take to produce the results He wants. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”
The late Larry Burkett used to say with a smile, “God is seldom early, but He’s never late.” Be patient. Be careful not to set deadlines for the Lord to act.
Work diligently to solve your own problems, with the recognition that you need the moment-by-moment help and counsel of the Lord who loves you. Philippians 4:6-7 is one of my favorite Bible passages when facing difficulties. Every phrase is loaded with meaning. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”
Imagine you are a teenager, deeply loved by your father. Your siblings sell you into slavery, and for the next 13 years you are a slave and a prisoner. Amazingly, on one unbelievable day, you find yourself elevated to second in command of the world’s most powerful nation. Several years later, your starving siblings – the ones who betrayed you – beg you for food. What’s your response: retaliate or forgiveness?
This is the question Joseph had to answer, and he chose to forgive. How was he able to do this? Because he recognized that God had orchestrated his circumstances – even the ones that were so deeply traumatic and painful. “God sent me ahead of you…” he told his brothers, “to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7-8).
God realizes how critical it is for us to forgive those who are involved in causing our crisis, regardless of their motivation. One of the most impressive characteristics of Jesus Christ was His willingness to forgive. Imagine hanging on a cross in excruciating agony, and at the same time praying for those who had crucified you: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
When the apostle Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times, He responded, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22, niv). He then told a parable about a servant who was forgiven a large debt by his master but refused to forgive a fellow servant a small debt. Christ describes what happens to the unforgiving servant: “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart” (Matthew 18:34, niv).
In order to grow more like Christ and experience the benefits He intends for us during a crisis, we must forgive. And more than forgive, we are to be kind, compassionate, and seek to be a blessing. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). “Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
Unforgiveness can be a daily battle, particularly if the crisis has been horribly hurtful. But it harms the person who refuses to forgive. My wife Bev describes it as swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die. When we refuse to forgive, the bitterness in our heart can turn toxic, consuming our thoughts and eating away our emotional health. Forgiveness and seeking to bless the other person, however, leads to freedom.
It is imperative to pray regularly for the Lord to give us the desire to forgive, and then to give us His love for the people who may have harmed us. Jesus tells us also to pray for them, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44). It’s hard to remain bitter toward someone for whom you are praying regularly.