And What If God Takes It All Away?
Recently we drove past our old house for the first time since downsizing. Immediately, our four children began rehearsing memories, noting every part of the house that they missed. Once again, they struggled to understand why we had to give it all up.
As hard as I tried to respond with confidence that it was the right thing for our family to follow God’s leading — even at the cost of financial comfort and a home we loved — deep down, I wrestled with my own nostalgia and questions.
Living on Far Less
Rewind six years when we were living well below our means, carefully planning for the future, and seeking wise counsel to be good stewards of our rising income. But, in his strange sovereignty, God chose to teach us how little control we really had.
Even as our oldest child’s neurological challenges seemed to consume us, other pressures were mounting. My health continued to decline and my husband’s on-call job often left me feeling like a single parent. Medical bills increased, and our confidence in the future was replaced by a growing reality that our family was in crisis.
God led us to a place where there was no other option but to let go of all we had saved, planned, and worked hard for. Within a few short months, my husband took a new job that brought significantly less income (but allowed him to be home more often). We sold our dream home, moved in with my parents, and were completely unsure of what the future held.
Am I Trusting in Prosperity?
Where did we go wrong? Maybe somewhere, but maybe nowhere.
Although God commands us to live wisely with what he entrusts us with, he ultimately asks us to trust him above all else, no matter the cost.
Through all of this, even in our desire to use our resources for God’s glory, he has taught me to search my heart by continually asking three questions.
1. Do I live in fear of losing my comfort?
If we desire worldly comforts, and fear earthly loss more than we fear God, then we will likely make decisions and plans according to what we think will keep our lives most comfortable. Looking back, I can now see the Lord’s severe mercy in overturning the plans we had set for our lives. He removed all of our earthly means to find comfort and security in this world. It was painful, yes, but it was also freeing.
As our eyes become increasingly fixed on fearing the Lord and trusting his promises for us, we can live in greater freedom to plan and live wisely according to God’s plan, rather than living in bondage to our own.
2. What legacy am I leaving?
Where we pour our time, energy, and money is a part of building the legacy that we will leave when we are gone. Are we working so many hours for our family’s comfort but are never there to invest in them spiritually and relationally? Are we so focused on planning for the future that we miss how God is calling us to live radically in the present? Or, does our lifestyle suggest that this earth actually is our home?
I am not saying we should not enjoy the gifts that God has given us, but we are commanded to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We should be frequently asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and show us where earthy treasures are motivating us more than eternal ones, that we might pursue righteousness above all else (Matthew 6:33).
3. Whether in prosperity or need, is Jesus enough?
We should plan and save — but is Christ enough if he chooses to take it all away?
In a two-year period, we went from debating how to redesign and remodel our kitchen to wrestling with how we would feed our family of six on food stamps. Both seasons have presented different challenges. In comfort, it was a constant temptation to put our confidence and joy in the false security that wealth gave us. While we desired to honor Christ with all that we had, if I’m honest, it was far too easy to be distracted by the excess.
Far Greater Treasure
Admittedly, the past two years have tested us in other ways as well. We’ve wrestled with trusting the Lord’s leading when it seemed only to lead to greater need and suffering. We were tempted to envy the seemingly comfortable lives of those around us. We’ve questioned why God would allow us to lose everything when we earnestly sought to honor him in our steps. We have struggled to understand why God has taken away provisions for the necessary treatments and doctors that our family’s chronic health issues require. And, at times, we have struggled to see God’s provisions and undeserving gifts because we were so focused on what we had lost.
Yet by his grace, he has continually shown himself faithful, providing in his way and timing, while changing our hearts along the way.
In whatever season you find yourself, hold firmly to the truth that Christ is and will always be enough (Philippians 4:19). He is a greater treasure than anything else this world can give. Sometimes, it may take losing everything on this earth to truly come to believe that with every ounce of our being.
Plan for the Future — But Don’t Hope in It
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
We are commanded to be content today because none of us have a guarantee of what tomorrow holds. Therefore, as Christ-honoring as it is to steward our resources wisely — to plan and save for an emergency fund, home, and retirement — we must always be on guard that we are not placing our hope in them. As we grow in understanding how temporary this life really is, we will learn to hold more loosely to our plans, live in freedom rather than fear, and be willing to spend ourselves more radically for the Lord.
When we find ourselves with a comfortable bank account and all of our efforts panning out as we hoped, we must be careful that our security and joy is not found there. We must boldly ask the Lord to both keep us dependent and to help us, in any situation, to glorify him. May we be slow to judge those who are struggling (not assuming it’s their own laziness or poor judgment), and quick to see how God’s grace has provided for us abundantly for his purposes.
You Can Lean on Him
If, on the other hand, you are reeling from the loss of what you worked hard for, or are carrying the burden of an uncertain future, take heart and rest in the one who sees your needs and is faithful to provide.
May this be a season that you see and savor an increased desire and love for Christ as you lean on him for your current and future needs. Be careful of giving way to resentment or envy towards those who appear to be more comfortable. Your intense season of need may be the greatest gift of grace that God has given you for his eternal purposes.
Sarah Walton and her husband live in Chicago with their four young children. Sarah blogs at setapart.net and is co-author of the book Hope When It Hurts. This article first appeared on desiringgod.org.
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