by Ava Pennington
In the past year, we experienced more than $15,000 of unexpected, one-time expenses, including:
$8,000 in dental bills
$2,800 for roof repairs
$2,000 for termite tenting
$1,000 to replace porch screens damaged by the tenting
$1,000 to repair pool pumps
Double ouch since our primary source of income is my husband’s pension. To say it’s been a tough year would be an understatement.
It’s not as if we haven’t been conscientious about handling our money. We have a budget, we tithe, and we don’t carry debt. But even with the savings we had put aside, $15,000 hurt…big time.
Of course, we trusted God to meet our needs. One of His names is Yahweh Jireh, our Provider. And the attributes the Bible uses to speak of God include trustworthy, faithful, and gracious. We read verses such as:
“Those who know your name trust in you” (Psalm 9:10 NIV).
“Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23 NIV).
“You are a gracious and merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:31 NIV).
To say “I trust God to meet my needs” is one thing. To have to depend on Him when the bills mount in the face of limited resources is another.
Being assured of God’s character enabled us to avoid panic. We rested in the assurance that, somehow, things would work out. But we also didn’t expect God to rain cash from the sky, so we had some practical issues to work through.
Our goal was to avoid debt as much as we possibly could, so here’s what we did:
I’m not trying to spiritualize a practical problem, but the bottom line is that we needed wisdom. Which expenses should we pay immediately? Which could wait? We didn’t want to spend our money based on emotional reactions; we wanted to make wise decisions. For that, we needed to turn to the Source of wisdom. James 1:5 (NIV) tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Searched the Scriptures
We were already familiar with what the Bible taught about stewardship, but we did not want our urgent financial demands to eclipse biblical values.
Regardless of the expenses that were piling up, we determined to continue to honor God in our giving, spending, and saving. So, yes, tithing was non-negotiable during this stressful time.
Clearly, there wasn’t enough money to handle everything all at once. Some expenses could be delayed. Fixing the pool pumps was something we wanted to do, but it wasn’t a necessity. Much as I would have liked to swim laps to work off some tension (as well as the extra pounds that came from reaching for comfort foods), other expenses were more critical.
Withdrew money from savings to cover immediate crisis items.
Thankfully, we had established a practice of saving a percentage of our income as a regular part of our budget.
We live in Florida and the leaky roof was discovered at the beginning of our rainy season. Fixing the roof could not be delayed. The other critical expense was eradicating the termites. Although the exterminator had advised us we could delay it for a few months, I wanted to be able to sleep without nightmares of termites eating our house to the ground!
Arranged to pay some bills in installments.
The roofing company and the exterminator each agreed to accept payment in three installments. That helped spread the expenses into manageable, if not pain-free, payments.
The dental work for both of us was arranged over several months. That enabled us to pay for the work as it was completed.
Reevaluated the savings and spending components of our budget.
This experience showed us that we needed to be more aggressive about putting money into savings each month. We had become a bit spoiled since we hadn’t previously experienced a large number of unexpected expenses all at once.
After we satisfied all the bills, we increased our savings. Of course, on a limited income, that meant we needed to decrease expenses. We examined our routine expenditures and noticed materialism has crept into our spending habits. So we reduced spending in several areas where we had become lax in our discipline.
Did God want us to trust Him with our finances during that difficult year? Of course He did. He is, indeed, our Provider. He is trustworthy, faithful, and gracious. But He is also our Guide, Helper, and Counselor, and He expects us to obey His instructions for life. Because of the salvation we have in Jesus, every area of our lives belongs to Him, including our finances.
The flood of unexpected expenses has dissipated for now. But I’m not so naïve as to think it won’t happen again. If and when it does, we’ll trust God and obey what He says.
Ava Pennington’s newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. Ava has also written numerous magazine articles and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and a board member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN).
Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at www.AvaWrites.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Purchase Daily Reflections on the Names of God at your favorite Christian bookstore or at the MTL bookstore.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.