Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the King also rejoiced greatly. -1 Chronicles 29:9
Recently, Mark and I spent several consecutive nights going over our finances. We took ourselves through scripture, as well as used an incredible book, From Debtor to Better, as our guide.
Mark and I are debt free. This means that we own both of our cars – paid cash for both. We have zero student loans – paid off more than $20,000 in less three years. We had a baby, and we paid cash for each and every bill. We have all the necessary insurances – home, life, health, etc. We’re debt free!
However, this last year was a year of much tribulation. It seemed that as we would overcome one financial hurdle, there would be another financial hurdle. We never felt like we got ahead, and that savings fund we built up? Yeah, it was completely depleted.
Right now, as I type, our bank account has dropped below $1,000. We do have savings, albeit low, we have it. We’re fine. So don’t start sending us money dear sweet mother-in-love. I know you! Sit back and keep reading.
My point is that the end of 2011 left us scratching our heads and wondering two things:
1) How did we get like this?
2) How in the world did we make it through last year?
I have to be honest, and I have to say it outright, we could not have made it through this last year apart from the sheer grace and mercy of God.
At the end of 2010, we set financial goals for 2011. Our theme was give until it hurts. Little did we know at the time what we were saying, at least not to the fullest extent. We thought our past couple of years was commendable in the area of giving. We thought we sacrificed until it hurt. However, we hadn’t, and God had bigger fish to fry than our money. He our pride to deal with, and pride did He deal.
We committed to giving more than the obligatory 10% to the Lord.
Mark was convinced that the Lord was asking us to give until it hurt, and Mark was right.
As we look back over the course of the last year, I am amazed.
Did we get to buy clothes? Nope.
Did we get to buy decorations for our home? Nope.
Did we get to go on a getaway together? Nope.
Did we get to buy extravagant gifts for our friends and family? Nope.
Did we have a cushiony bank account? Nope – far from it.
Did we get to eat steak dinner? Nope. But we sure tried.
However, we had all that we needed, and we were able to watch and experience the Lord’s provision.
- When our money went to fixing a flat tire, we saw the Lord mold the roofing company’s heart who covered the tab without question.
- When our money went to putting new brakes on our van, we saw the Lord provide the next size clothing for Samuel through family.
- When our money went to moving expenses, we saw the Lord provide friends who were willing to get dirty, really dirty, to help us get our house ready to live in.
- When our grocery budget had to be cut, we saw the Lord fill our freezer full through the generosity of family.
- When we had no idea how we were going to be able to cover our tithe, we saw the Lord provide finances from unexpected sources.
Mark and I were far from perfect this last year, and my attitude can be summed up in a word: terrible. Or maybe: selfish. Or better yet: discontent.
So often, I demanded more money. I searched our bank account for an extra few dollars so I could buy the boots I wanted. I scrounged for finances so I could eat out for lunch because I didn’t feel like making myself anything. I whined about not getting to do anything, go anywhere. I complained that none of our clothes fit and all I had were my clothes from when I worked in an office.
Then, when my grandparents would commend us for making sacrifices so I could stay home with our baby, my stomach would drop. I would feel shame, and realize that what they thought I was, I was not. Far from it. I was that person wanting more stuff! I was that person complaining and whining! That humbled me.
Furthermore, when the man of my prayers asked me to track our finances, I didn’t want to do it even though I knew it would serve him. I made excuses and did it reluctantly. I made sure he knew what a sacrifice it was for me each time I had to input receipts and make the deposits at the bank. I mean, I do have a busy one year old! What does he do all day while I’m searching for that rogue penny to make our checkbook balance?
This last year was a year of pruning, a year of refinement, a year of the Lord asking me,
“Do you trust me, or do you trust your bank account?”
Before this year, I would have said that I trusted the Lord fully with our finances. Our money is God’s money after all – we just get to manage it. However, at the end of this year, as I reflect on the twelve months prior, I see clearly that the Lord truly wanted my heart, not my money.
God wanted my heart to reflect the heart of a servant, like David from the Old Testament, who blessed the Lord and gave willingly with his whole heart.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17
To my amazement, as I calculated our bills and compared it to our estimated income for 2012, there was a leftover amount – an amount that I could not account for. This amount was allotted in 2011. Once our bills are paid and our needs are met, there was $200 a month leftover. Then, it dawned on me, and I fell to my knees … that was God’s money, the money we gave extra – above and beyond. The money that hurt so bad to give.
In my mess, all of it, God got what He wanted. He not only got my heart, but He got my money too.