“Wonderful!” Mike said. “We don’t have enough money to cover our bills for the month. Something’s gotta give! I am so sick and tired of struggling like this! I feel like we are just squeaking by, one month at a time. Our daughter needs braces, our son is applying for college, and our other daughter wants to get into tumbling. How are we going to give them what they need? I feel hopeless and I feel like a dead-beat parent because I can’t even provide for my family. Why has God allowed us to be so limited? Why does God have us in a place of lack? I thought He was supposed to provide ALL of our needs. Whatever.”
This is an all-to-real conversation that happens within many Christian households. I hear them quite often and I understand. My wife and I have four children, the oldest being a sophomore in high school. In fact, we’ve had this same conversation with one another, and with God. We felt like partial failures. We were providing a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, and we were able to do some things like modestly shop for school clothes for the kids, but we still needed help from a couple of grandparents. The financial struggle wore down on us. It wore us down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The struggle seemed to touch every area of our being. Life became a drag.
Have you ever worn a pair of jeans or shorts that had been in the closet for the season and when you placed your hands in your pocket, you found a $20? Maybe it was a $5 or maybe it was a $100. Remember the feeling you had when your hand made contact with that very peculiar paper that money is made of? It’s unmistakable. No other paper has that feeling, just money. Remember the surprise and feeling of joy in the shock that filled your heart and mind? And when you found that money, the first thing you wanted to do was tell someone. And you did. No one keeps that a secret, no one. Now I want you to think of the time before you found that money. There were times you needed that money. There were times it could’ve really come in handy. But you made it; somehow you made it.
Now that’s a mild example of being in need and making it. Although you eventually made it through a time of lack, it doesn’t exactly address the suffering during the lack. I don’t want to talk about God coming through for you and your needs. Most people I talk to are most concerned about God coming through, but I am not. I am confident that He will come through in His own way and His own time, for His own purposes. Again, I don’t find that to be the main question or concern because time and time again, I have witnessed God come through. What I want to address is what God is teaching you through your time of lack.
What exactly is “lack”? Lack is not having what is needed to accomplish something or to complete something. It’s being “short,” not having enough to continue to the end place or result. For example, you “lack” enough gasoline to get from Gresham to the westside of Portland in 5 o’clock traffic; therefore, you won’t make it. Or maybe your electric bill is $200 and your paycheck is $600…but the car payment is $300, insurance is $100, and food (if you choose to eat and live) is $200. Oh, and if you like living in your apartment/house, the rent that needs to come out of this particular paycheck is $400. That’s $1,000 in bills. “Houston, we have a problem.” No matter how you slice it and cut it up, the math comes out the same (in general): YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY…YOU ARE LACKING MONEY TO SURVIVE.
So what is our loving, caring, compassionate, and all-knowing God up to? What’s the Perfect Father trying to teach you during this time of “lack”? Don’t miss that. If you don’t see God as the Perfect Father, your personal Daddy, you can’t understand the intimacy involved in His teaching. If you miss the intimate love that He loves you with, you will miss the intimate purpose of your time of lack. So keep your loving Daddy in mind when attempting to understand and accept His purposes for your life and His Kingdom.
The “gift” that hit your door, or better yet, hit your life may look something like this:
A state of lack is a gift from God.
“What!? You’re kidding right?”
Nope, you heard me and I don’t stutter. Your time of lack, whether it’s been 10-minutes or 10-years, is a gift from God. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. And, it’s a gift that can give you something that most blessings don’t have the ability to give you. Lack is a gift wrapped in toilet paper and soiled newspapers (sorry-I know that’s gross, but you have to agree right? Lack stinks!). And look, there’s a big bow on top. Wait, is that a bow or a couple of old, worn, dirty, smelly socks tied in a knot to keep the top on the box? Yep, it’s a couple of old, worn, dirty, smelly socks tied in a knot to keep the top on the box. That’s God’s gift to you! Actually, it’s just the initial wrapping. But here’s the kicker, it was personally wrapped by your loving Father.
Conclusion: God has wrapped a very special, one of a kind gift for you that can’t be received any other way than this way. Why? I have my suspicions, but I don’t know. What I do know is this: that beautiful gift that will take you wonderful places, both mentally and spiritually, is wrapped in some nasty, painful, stanky, and unfortunate situations. As you move closer to the gift inside, you continue to lack. You will continue to lack until God achieves what He wants to achieve within you, spiritually. It’s a process. But why? Why not just give me the great gift on the inside? Because there’s something you need to learn during this time of lack. There’s something you need to gain. There’s a process you need to adopt. There’s an attitude in which you need to adopt. There’s a preparation you need before the next challenging time hits, before the next neighbor or friend you have needs you for help in getting through.
Here are a few of the things God will teach you through your time of lack; things that you aren’t likely to learn any other way.
God will teach you that He is in control and you aren’t.
God will teach you that He alone gives you what you have and He alone allows it to be taken away. God will teach you that He alone determines your lot in life. God will teach you to depend upon Him and you will find that you have no choice but to do so; after all, you have no control. Everything you own or possess is really His anyway, and not yours. You simply manage His things. It’s most clearly seen that what you have is God’s, during a time of lack. It’s much, much more difficult to see that in a time of plenty.
God will teach you to realize what your needs are and what your wants are.
God will teach you what it means to live with integrity and without waste. God did not provide you with a job and an income so that you can squander His money and resources. A season of lack forces you to separate what you truly need to survive and what you don’t truly need. Narrowing expenses is a great way to free up your finances and resources so that you can give to those in need. God wants this and He commands this. Having plenty does not bring clear perspective of what your needs and wants are, but lack does. What a gift!
God will teach you to have compassion on others who struggle financially.
When we have plenty, we have a tendency to have an attitude of charity toward those who struggle financially, but not a real compassion. An attitude of charity isn’t bad, but God calls us to have something much deeper. He commands us to have compassion. When we are in a time of lack, we are able to not only identify with what it means to be in lack, but we are able to have compassion for those experiencing lack. You are now walking in their shoes. You are now able to fully understand the feelings of failure, hopelessness, and guilt that can haunt them. You are now in the trenches with them. Now you can build a relationship in those trenches you wouldn’t otherwise be able to build. Now you realize you’re not alone, and so do they. Lack can develop a heart of compassion for others who are struggling with lack. There’s strength in numbers.
God will teach you to be thankful for what little you do have.
How else can this be taught? You can always look around and find someone worse off than you. When a season of lack hits your life, make it a point to look around. You may have it hard, but not harder than someone else. It’s in a time of lack that you are most near to those who have nothing. It’s like seeing Mt. Hood from 40-miles away and then seeing Mt. Hood from the base of the mountain. The closer you are, the better you can see the enormity of the dormant volcano. When you’re close to nothing, you can much more clearly see that you should be thankful for what you do have.
God will teach you to sacrificially give.
God will teach you to sacrificially give because anything at all you give will be a sacrifice because you can’t afford to give anything at all. But the fact is that you can’t afford not to give. What you used to give so easily is a distant memory. What you give now means so much more because it costs you so much more. What you give during a time of lack elicits you to exercise a lot more faith in that giving. The worst response you can have during a time of lack, in regards to giving, is not to give at all in order to save money or resources. That’s not what God calls us to do. We are to give as the Spirit leads, regardless of the consequences, regardless of the apprehensions or fears, and regardless of what someone pressures you to give. This is between you and your loving Father, who will take good care of you and bless you.
There’s a lot to be learned in a season of lack. Lack is a gift that bears much fruit in your personal spiritual growth, your witness of faith during this difficult season, and the ministering to others in need.
I challenge you to begin your day thanking God for what you have and for this season of lack.
I also challenge you to take an honest look at your expenses and highlight those expenses that truly are “needs,” then pray about and talk to your spouse about trimming some of the non-necessities and watch the freedom in your finances begin to form.
Lastly, I challenge you to pray about what to give to your local church family. Whatever The Lord leads you to give will be a sacrifice. And when you take that step of faith and give it, give it with a cheerful and joyful heart, with the expectation that you are pleasing God with your faith. Pray that He will use all that’s given to meet the needs of others who are in lack, both physically and spiritually.