Going through financial struggles? As frustrating as it is, there are some great blessings that can come from struggling financially that might just make the hard times worth it if you can look at your situation from a new perspective.
I married an entrepreneur. I didn’t know it when I married him, but I have come to realize over the past 12 years that it is at the core of his being to create the things he dreams about. He would never be happy building someone else’s dream. I could be just fine doing that, but not him. I have come to appreciate this about him, despite the financial challenges it has presented to our little family. I have come to see that he is extremely self-motivated, very difficult to discourage, and one of the hardest working people I know as I’ve watched him build several small businesses over the years.
I think some people have the mistaken impression that most small business owners, like my husband, are paying minimum wages to their employees and living large on company profits. What actually happens is he works harder and risks more than anyone who works for him in the hopes that after paying his employees, his overhead, and keeping the federal, state, and local governments happy, he might have something left over to bring home to his family. And sadly, many months there has been little if any to bring home– it is what I like to call the American Dream/Nightmare. (-:
So, what I am saying is we know what it is like to work like crazy and struggle financially, and with the uncertainty of the economy the past several years, I know we are not alone. But, I have been amazed over the years what a blessing this has turned out to be and how grateful I am for the struggles we’ve faced. I wouldn’t trade what I have learned from 12 years of financial struggle for 12 years of prosperous living, because it would literally change who we are now as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. And I like who we are now.
Here are just a few of the unexpected blessings that have come from our financial struggles:
1- When you don’t have a lot to live on, you quickly cut down on anything unnecessary. One of the first things to go for us was cable TV. We had enjoyed it in the past, and were sad to let it go, but it just wasn’t in the budget. What surprised me was how much it changed the feeling in our home to not have a TV on, and especially not to have the commercials blaring in our ears. There is so much garbage on TV, but even when you are watching good TV shows, there is so much garbage in the commercials. Even a lot of the programs meant for youth have an attitude about them that I don’t want my kids mimicking. I have loved not having the influence of the media so prevalent in our home. We haven’t been able to afford tablets and video gaming systems either, so their screen time is minimal by default- and we don’t fight about it because it is not even an option. They spend more time reading, using their imaginations, and playing outside with friends. And that is a good thing.
2- We eat healthier. When your food budget is minimal, you don’t buy things you don’t need like soda pop, pre-prepared or processed foods, and snack foods. We used to always have apple juice for the kids. When I realized I couldn’t afford it, I was worried because my youngest at the time would ask for it every day. But, after a week, she didn’t even miss it and I’m sure her teeth are better off for it. During lean times, I make sure we have the basics- milk, bread, cheese, eggs, fruits and vegetables, a little protein, etc. We don’t eat elaborate meals, but we have enough to eat and that is a blessing.
3- I remember one day early in our marriage my husband over-drafted our account. I was a puddle on the floor. I thought life might just be over. I was very security-minded at that time. I made my husband take a graveyard shift cleaning facilities at the university I was attending so we could have insurance benefits. He would sleep during the day while I was in class, we would do drywall jobs in the afternoon together (his first small business), and then he would go clean the buildings at night. He was a zombie, but I had my security.
Twelve years and 5 different small businesses later, I have been completely broken of my security-mindedness. This is a blessing. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we should do every thing we can to provide for our needs, but I have learned that despite our best efforts, there are going to be times when we have no control over outside factors that affect our ability to provide for all our needs and/or the wants we may have accumulated. Having constant anxiety over how I was going to pay the next bill was paralyzing and miserable and I had to let go of it. If I didn’t, it could have destroyed me and possibly my marriage.
My husband was a great example to me. When he had to close one of his businesses he was left with some heavy debts to pay and people believing things about him that weren’t true. Most people would have gone into a deep depression. He just kept pushing forward. I asked him one day how he could act like nothing was wrong. He told me, “Trish- I can’t focus on the debts or what other people are thinking about me or I will never be able to pay off the debts and change their opinion. I just have focus on making something else work so I can take care of the people who have taken care of me. I know who I am and what my intentions are and I know the Lord knows, and that is what keeps me going.” So I decided to do the same. I would keep my bills in a safe place and only look at them on the days when money came in. I would pay what I could and put the rest back in their safe place until more money came in. And I would not think about them until then.
We have not been blessed to keep all of the wants we had accumulated, and we weren’t always able to pay every bill as promptly as we wanted to, but life has never ended and our basic needs have always been met, often through the Lord blessing us with the means to meet them, and other times by Him sending a loved one or stranger to help us meet them when we could not. Sometimes just with very loving and patient people. I KNOW now that God is aware of us and is the provider of everything we receive. I’ve learned to trust Him, and that has made all the difference. Now I don’t get stressed, I don’t make my husband’s burden even heavier by my constant anxiety, and I am happy whether we are rich or poor at the moment, knowing somehow with God’s help we will get by.
4- We politely bowed out of the keeping up with the Jones’ game with its superficial focus and shallow outlook on life. We have learned the important lesson that we don’t really have ownership over what we have- we have stewardship over it. God gives us everything we have, and He can take away anything we have. Our responsibility is to use whatever He gives us at this very moment… for good. Not only does this perspective keep us from feeling devastated and bitter when we lose worldly things, but it has changed our perspective on what we would do if He blessed us with wealth. Instead of a list of things we would purchase and vacations we would take, our list is of ways we would prepare for a rainy day and people we would help. We have greater clarity on what really matters in life and that is a blessing.
5- The perspective I have developed through our financial struggles is a blessing. We live in a nation of plenty where we are surrounded by so many who have so much- (whether through debt or wealth.) If you focus on what everyone else has, you start to think you are destitute and put upon. But, in reality, my little 100-year-old farm house with a bit of a musty smell is a luxurious mansion compared to the living conditions most experience around the world. And I try not to let myself forget that. Even with our 5th child on the way, we are not suffering for room in comparison. I heard a man describe an experience he had in South America. He took his sons down there on a service mission. They built bunk beds for a man who was raising 6 kids on his own. They had been sleeping on concrete up to this point. When they finished building the bunk beds, their hearts sunk when they realized they had overlooked finding mattresses to put on them. The humble father said it was fine and he was thrilled to have his kids even sleeping on the wood in the beds rather than the concrete floor.
I am sure there are some reading my post who are in far humbler circumstances than I, and that is my point. There is always someone else worse off than you and if you can remember that, you start to see your blessings instead of focusing on what you are lacking. I almost never load my dishwasher or my washer and dryer without feeling grateful that I have them. Whenever my husband or I start to forget our blessings and start longing for more, we remind each other how blessed we are in reality and put things back in perspective. For example, there a was a short period of time when the only working vehicle we had for me to drive was a tan 1990’s Suburban from his dealership, that one day, out of the blue, my husband let his boy scouts paint camouflage as an “activity.” I wasn’t excited about the idea of driving this “hunter’s special” to drop my kids off at school (Duck Dynasty wasn’t around yet to make me look cool.) With a cute, but annoying smirk on his face, he told me I was being a little prideful. I told him he was being a little ridiculous. I was really mad at him for calling me prideful for not wanting to drive it. Who would want to drive that thing? But, when I calmed down I realized in reality it was a working vehicle to get me where I needed to go and I should be thankful for that alone. With this new perspective my husband and I have been able to appreciate what others have been blessed with and still be grateful and content with what we have.
When I see people now, I don’t focus on the house they live in, the clothes they are wearing, or the toys in their garage. I try my best to focus on their hearts and their struggles and ways I can help. I know that true joy doesn’t come from material possessions. It comes from knowing that even if I were stripped of all my material possessions, I would still be a child of God, loved and watched over by Him. And it comes through loving and serving those around me so that they can know the same thing. And that, fortunately, takes no money at all.
Other posts from Trisha that you might enjoy:
You might also enjoy this post from Katie on Living Happily on One Income: