Many of you know that I’ve endeavored to spend the year reading and meditating through the book of Proverbs, focusing on three verses each day. The pace at which I am going has allowed me to enjoy the book of Proverbs in a way that I’ve never been able to, and at the same time, allow the proverbs that I read speak into my life more deeply.
Today, one of the verses that I read was Proverbs 10:22, which says, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”
When I first read this verse, I was a bit confused at what it meant. After praying and meditating on it, I was in awe of the truth and clarity in this one little sentence in Scripture.
Some of you may know my history with spending and credit card debt, and how God has freed me from these strongholds in my life (it sure does seem like I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my short life, doesn’t it??). If you don’t know this part of my story, please feel free to read about it here.
Coming out of college, I had about $14,000 racked up in credit card debt alone, and I was going into ministry, where, you know, I probably wouldn’t be making the big bucks. Though I had a lot of nice things and appeared rich in the eyes of others, I was a slave with many sorrows. I only wanted more. I wasn’t content with what I had. I screened my phone calls because I had collections agencies after me trying to get me to pay things off. I was constantly hiding and shredding “second” and “third notices” for payments. I was riddled with constant anxiety at how to make my monthly payments for all 14 of my credit cards, because each month I would only pay off interest and the huge balance still remained. I would constantly need to ask my parents to help with rent. And I still kept spending.
You see, I had such a disgusting attitude of entitlement and discontentment. “I deserve these nice things! Everyone needs nice things! Everyone has nice things, so why can’t I?”
But at the same time, so much of my self-worth was wrapped up in how I appeared to others. “What if I can’t keep up with others?? What if they look down on me because I don’t have all of the newest stuff??” And this isn’t an excuse because I take full responsibility for my greed and brokenness and where it led me, but I think it also had something to do with growing up in an upper middle-class town and never being able to buy all of my clothes from Abercrombie or American Eagle, and feeling like I’d never be accepted or popular without wearing name brands. My self-esteem was that fragile.
So it’s no surprise that the first chance I got where I had the means to spend exorbitantly that I would.
Which led to sorrow upon sorrow upon sorrow.
In the process of financial freedom (which you can read about in the blog post that I linked above), God started correcting my view of money and things. In the four years that I was in my Christian debt management program, I wasn’t allowed to have any credit cards, so I learned to live within my means. I was forced to!
But I found freedom in doing so. Freedom from the debilitating anxiety about paying off my debt, freedom from the hold that the love of things had over me (because there was no other choice!), freedom from what others thought of me if I didn’t have the nicest things, freedom from the control money had over me, etc. Though I often wanted (and prayed for!!) God to just provide me with a generous benefactor who would cover all of my credit card debt with one payment, I paid it all back on my own (with RJ’s help in the last year of payments, as we had gotten married). It was the consequence for my sin, but it was also a time of intense discipline and character building, which is exactly what I needed to get to the place where I am now.
On this journey to financial freedom, I also began the process of viewing everything I had, everything I owned, and everything I was given as a gift from God. Because in ministry, it literally was! My livelihood literally depended on the generosity of others giving to God, because they believed in what God had called me to do on campus at UCI. To be frivolous with these gifts given to God which were then given to me was just wrong. So I learned stewardship, what it means to be entrusted by God with all that I had and owned for His glory and purpose.
Though I don’t spend even CLOSE to as much as I used to, though RJ and I don’t have all of the latest things and technologies, and though we don’t make a lot of money, we are SO blessed with what God has entrusted to us. He has given us a house when we had barely any savings (a TRUE miracle!!), He has given us the sweetest dog we could ever own for free, we have never been in want or need, and when money is tight, He ALWAYS comes through in some other way to provide abundantly. We feel free from the ties the world has on us materially, fully convinced that all we have and all that has been given to us is from God.
And we are content. Our hearts are just full knowing that God has blessed us more than we deserve and more than we could ever imagine. Though we have less stuff than I used to have, I am free from the sorrows that once plagued me. And I feel rich in Christ.
My hope and prayer is that no matter what situation we are in, whether we are making more money or whether we are in a poorer financial situation, that we would remember all of these truths of God’s blessings and remain content.
It is the blessing of God that makes rich, and He truly adds no sorrow with His blessings.