a guest post by Lila Diller
I don’t think I’m the right person to try to teach others about joy. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit that I have the hardest time with. Not that any of them are easy, but joy is one of the harder ones for me. It’s especially hard when financial struggles steal joy.
The vast majority of my life has been under financial stress. When I was young, I didn’t realize it until I started wanting things that all my friends had. My parents couldn’t just buy me the video game console or nice clothes I wanted. I soon realized those weren’t necessities. But I always saw our lack.
Then I went to college and worked my butt off to help pay my way through. My parents also worked as much overtime as they could to help. We all worked long and hard. And I graduated debt-free. I also graduated dirt-broke.
When Financial Struggles Steal Joy
I got married the next year. After only three months, my husband lost his job. As soon as I got pregnant, I stayed home with my babies. I don’t regret that decision. But it sure hasn’t helped us build any nest egg. We experience periods that range from “just enough” to struggling through poverty again.
God has always provided. I know that. I’ve seen Him do it time and again.
But every time we lose income, I fall right back into that habit of worrying. My mom is a classic worrier, and I learned from the best. It’s still my fault, though. I know better. But knowing I shouldn’t worry and actually not worrying are two very different things.
To me, worry is not necessarily a lack of trust. It’s usually a fear of the future. I know God will provide what we need. But I know what I think I need may classify as a want. I don’t know if our real needs are enough for me.
I’m scared that He’ll ask me to give up our house. I fear He’ll ask me to give up my choice of foods. Fearing I’ll have to give up my entire routine and everything I enjoy doing seems natural. I’m scared He’ll ask us to give everything up. I am not sure I could handle that.
This is what steals my joy.
Content in All Circumstances
How right was King Solomon when he wrote: “Don’t be rich or poor; a happy medium is the best” (Lila’s version).
“…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8b-9, ESV).
Boy, I know why being poor is not desired. It’s hard to think of anything else and really easy to blame it on God. Even when I’m trying to trust in Him, every grocery store visit is a test in self-control, math prowess (which I’ve never claimed to), and trust that it will last another week.
I’ve never known what it feels like to be rich. At least, that’s how I think when I look around at people in my country, even in my church. But when I force myself to look around at the world, I see that I’m rich compared to them. “Rich” and “poor” are relative terms. It all depends on who you’re comparing yourself to.
I must remind myself to compare myself to Paul. He said he had learned contentment with all circumstances, whether living in abundance or living in need, whether full or hungry (Phil. 4:12). I guess I’ve never faced true hunger. We always at least have another peanut butter & jelly sandwich, even if that’s what we had the day before. But we have always eaten three meals a day.
Thinking of those less fortunate than I really does make me thankful for what I do have. So we don’t have central air and the temperature in the main room gets up to 92ºF in the hottest part of the summer. At least we have electricity for fans and window units in our bedrooms.
So we don’t have the latest models of appliances or the newest cars. We have enough to get the jobs done and get where we’re going.
So our bathrooms have water damage and we can’t afford to repair it. At least we still have indoor plumbing and sanitation.
So we can’t afford to go out to eat every day. At least we have food on the table.
So we don’t have the latest smartphones and gadgets. Our ancient knockoffs are better than nothing at all.
So our boys don’t have the latest video consoles or nicest bikes or coolest toys. They’re still imaginative and innovative.
I actually have a lot to be grateful for. I just need to remember them. I need to focus not on my lack but on my abundance.
And I have been given so much. Even if I had nothing, I would still be “blessed… in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3, ESV).
You are rich, too.
Embrace Today’s Joy One Day at a Time
I still worry sometimes. And I’m sure you do, too. Let’s not let fear steal our joy. Let’s give thanks for what we already have and not worry about what we don’t.
Jesus told us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food and clothes] will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:33-34, NIV).
The only way we can let go of our fear of the future and embrace today’s joy is to focus on one day at a time.
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Lila is an author of Christian Romance novels, blogger, and homeschool mom. She loves sushi and Mexican food, Hallmark movies, anything dark chocolate, the color purple, and reading in her pajamas. Lila, outnumbered by a houseful of males, lives with her supportive husband Chris, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog in Statesville, NC. She loves to help readers create romance in their marriages and in their spiritual walks with Jesus and can be found at liladiller.com.