When you find yourself blessed with resources, look to help others. Work to create a haven for the financially frustrated.
I’ll never forget walking into a homeless shelter for the first time.
Convicted that I needed to help the less fortunate in my city, I signed up to babysit children at a local women and children’s shelter once a week. But as I looked out at a sea of faces that looked so different from my own, my pulse raced. How in the world would I manage a room full of rowdy kids by myself? Why ever would they listen to me?
With a lot of prayer, I made it through the next hour and a half. When I got home, I took a hot shower to try to wash everything away – the odor that lingered in my nose, the feeling of the shelter still on my skin, and my overwhelming fear of people in a very different place in life.
I begged my husband to help me the next week.
He did. Together, we went back week after week for the next two years – and we loved it.
It didn’t take long to get to know the children who came and went from the shelter. Some stayed for months and our love for them grew and grew. I stopped taking showers after getting home each week because I no longer felt like I needed to wash anything off – these families were dear to my hearts.
And when my husband and I both lost our jobs during the Great Recession and sold our house to relocate out of necessity, I knew we weren’t that different from the moms and children we served.
Instead of judgment, choose kindness
As I cared for the less fortunate and also spent several years fully knowing my own family could barely make ends meet, I quickly discovered that if and when families struggle financially, they don’t always announce it.
In fact, it’s my experience that they shy away from telling others. In today’s culture, where it seems so important to take care of yourselves, it can be humiliating to let people know about your financial struggle.
In Erin Odom’s new book, More Than Just Making It, she shares her own family’s story of the burden and stigma of bankruptcy, and how they changed from a life of financial desperation to a life of plenty.
As Erin shares, “Hiding the fact that we were on welfare made me feel like we were living a lie. I had prided myself on being authentic, transparent. But this was something I felt like I could tell no one.”
By reminding yourself that you are only one major illness or accident away from financial ruin, you can curb a judgmental attitude.
As you withhold judgment of others, it’s also essential to remember – and give credit to – the Giver of all good things. As Erin writes:
“Yes, He has given us gifts to use to bring Him glory and to provide for our families, but it all comes from Him, my friends. When we forget that, we come dangerously close to adopting a humanistic worldview. God’s Word reminds us that everything we have comes from the Lord.”
Thank the Lord for everything He has blessed you with, and remember that it’s His provision. Not yours.
When you have enough to help others
If life is moving along smoothly for you right now, be thankful – and start looking for ways to help others who might be going through a rough season. Be a haven during their storms of life.
I’ve found that you don’t need to necessarily open your home to others who need help. Simply being willing to help in sometimes creative ways can meet needs – both big and small.
Because people in need won’t always announce it, be sensitive to hints that help might be needed. Then follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. If you feel nudged to do something, do it.
As James so bluntly but perfectly admonishes in the Bible, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 3:15-16)
In More Than Just Making It, Erin shares the importance of willingly and generously sharing your belongings with others:
“When we live by the philosophy that we have earned and are entitled to our possessions, we’re more likely to hold onto them tightly rather than to share them freely. When we remember that all things come from the Lord, it’s easier to hold His blessings with open hands give generously.”
Helping doesn’t mean you need to whip out your checkbook and write a big, fat check to cover a mortgage payment. When you want to help the financially frustrated, it doesn’t have to be complicated:
- Pass along hand-me-down clothing to another family.
- Treat a friend to lunch.
- Take a meal to a young couple to welcome a new baby.
- Instead of taking your old furniture or appliances to the curb, try to find a family who could use your used belongings. If you don’t find any takers, post your items to craigslist or donate your things to Goodwill.
- Share fresh fruit and veggies from your garden.
- Fill gallon-sized resealable bags with basic necessities – snacks, water, and toiletries – and keep the bags in your car. (I like to call them Blessing Bags.) The next time you see someone asking for help on a street corner, hand them a bag with a smile and a simple, “God bless you!”
- Invite a family over for a meal. Believe it or not, easing the cost of just one meal can make a difference!
- Anonymously send cash – or a gift card. This has happened several times in my life, and the unexpected mystery gifts of cash always came at just the right time. From experience, I know that both cash and gift cards can be a wonderful blessing and meet huge needs.
As you help others, remember that you’re doing a very good thing.
As Erin writes, “This isn’t about cop-outs. It’s about compassion. It’s about pulling our heads out of the sand and understanding that instead of choosing between gymnastics or dance classes, many people must choose between paying the electricity bill or buying groceries. Instead of choosing steak or chicken, they choose red beans or white.”
When you don’t have enough and need help
If you’re in a tight spot right now and your financial situation is looking bleak, I encourage you to keep hanging in and trusting God for His provision. Right now, it’s vital to take your concerns to the Lord in prayer and to thank Him for the many ways He’s already providing for you.
As Erin writes, “When you feel like you’re just barely making it, it can be hard to see past the difficulties and recognize God’s provision in your life. … It’s humbling to admit when we are in need, but it can also bring us closer to God and help us recognize and praise His provision in our lives. …
“Practicing gratitude in each small gesture will help you go from a mental and emotional state of ‘just barely making it’ to more than just making it – if you let it. For gratitude still discontentment.”
Whether you find yourself walking into a homeless shelter – either to help out or to find help – remember to put your trust and hope in the Lord and follow His leading.
As you’re looking for inspiration and ideas of how to break free from financial frustration, visit More Than Just Making It. And Erin’s book, More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated, is filled with ideas of how to live on less.
She shares a wealth of practical information – from how to wisely shop for groceries to how to furnish your home or clothe your family on a dime. Several chapters tell exactly how she stretched her family’s meager finances during years of dire financial struggles.
Her family’s story not only is inspiring, but also it honestly illustrates what anyone can do even right now to make do.
As Erin encourages, “You, too, dear reader, can embrace the hope of rising above your circumstances, even when they are as bleak as ours were. You can pick up the pieces of humbling times and see fruit in the aftermath – relationships restored, burdens lifted, and a heart of positivity that blooms and grows.”