Tough times and trust

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Years ago when I first went into business for myself, my wife and I were in dire financial straits. We had a credit card canceled. Even though our monthly home mortgage was less than a hundred dollars, it was still more than a constant worry. We had a new baby and no savings. It appeared that we had made an unwise move to leave that steady salary.

But there was another picture.

We had prayed a lot before we made the move. We were confident we had tried to listen to God, not to some unwise zeal. We didn't believe God would let us down.

Even with all the fear, there was a deep inner awareness that God loved us and would take care of us. So we resolved to pray even more earnestly, to work at the job even more industriously, and to trust that things would fall into place.

They did. The work flowed more steadily. Before long, we were out of the woods. And we were out of that gripping fear that we would lose everything, including our dignity. And that fear hasn't come back in all these years. But most of all, I think we were out of the gripping suggestion that we were separated from God - from good.

Also, my wife and I came to feel that God cares the same way for everybody who is honest, earnest, and trusting in His love. We weren't a special case above others. Our experience illustrated that everyone is special to God.

It's common to have a skewed view of wealth. Some people think that affluence is a sign of favor with God and poverty is a sign of disfavor. But neither poverty nor wealth is a sure sign of being close to God. You can come by either in ways that are totally unconnected to God, such as cheating and sloth. The God I know doesn't value anything material or sinful. Recently I was talking with a successful businessman. When I said that the purpose of prayer was not business success or affluence, he asked, "What's it all about?"

To me, it's all about holiness, or thoughts, motives, and lives that yearn to be close to God. Or, to say it another way, prayer is about being aware of a reality, or a condition of life, that is spiritual, not material, and striving for that. It's about looking through the haze of materialism to the fact of spiritual existence. It's about making spiritual reality most important in our lives and not having a second goal that means nearly as much.

Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). As much as I sometimes would like to think so, I don't read in those words any message that we should seek material things second or eventually shift our focus and priorities from God to material things. I think Jesus just understood that when we put God first, the things we need come along naturally.

That's what happened in our family, and we're grateful. Years later, we're alert to be more conscious of God's love and care than to be impressed with the things we happen to possess.

Sometimes we remind ourselves of that fact. Materialism, or a focus on the things of matter rather than on the things of God, is an ongoing temptation for the whole world.

Financial lack is sometimes a misplaced trust. Once Jesus said: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" That stopped his disciples in their tracks. Maybe they thought that rich people had an advantage with God. Their Master clarified things when he said how hard it was for them who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23, 24).

I've found, to a modest degree, that the solution to lack is an increased trust in God. That trust increases as we come to a clearer understanding of God and our relation to Him. The simple fact is that God not only creates us, He loves and cares for us.

We are His precious children, His offspring, the objects of His affection. That's a special identity. Glimpsing this puts us on the road to an understanding that brings secure peace and an adequate, even abundant, supply of whatever we need. Having our needs met enables us to live lives that are selfless and productive, not indulgent, indolent, or proud. The whole purpose of life, after all, is to give and share and bless others. It's based on a love that we can't lack.

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