Thursday, November 7, 2013

Advice from my personal experience: Give.

When you're struggling in an area, it gets particularly difficult to give. Your survival instincts kick in and start to say things like "That money is needed for our family budget, I can't tithe." or "There's barely enough food for us, I can't invite someone to dinner or donate to the food drive."

This is an especially easy thought trap for women to fall into, because we are naturally wired to be protectors of what we already have. Men are wired to expand, women are wired to preserve and manage. But that doesn't mean that you're immune if you're male.

The reality of the matter is that lack of any kind creates in us faulty humans a greediness that is hard to defeat. We sit like Scrooge McDuck and count our pennies, all the while wondering why we have no friends, why no one is offering to help. We aren't willing to look around and see how our pennies can be used to help someone else because we're so busy keeping them to ourselves. After all, we barely have enough. Let the rich do the charity donating.

The only cure to lack is generosity. If you want to start doing better in life, you have to give. Not because there's some cosmic law of the universe that says if you give you'll receive (which there is, but it comes with a caveat: your attitude has to be in the right place), but because giving what little you have to someone else is an act of faith. When you put that extra dollar or ten dollars or hundred dollars into the offering plate at church, or when you invite someone you know is also struggling to come share your family dinner, you're stepping into God's jurisdiction and saying "I'm going to trust that you'll take care of me."

Remember, it's about the heart attitude. Giving is so important because of the heart attitude it creates. You can't give with a heart attitude of "God, I'm putting this ten bucks in the plate and now it's your job to bring me more money." God doesn't honor a selfish heart that gives only to bribe a response.

Two years ago, my husband and I had hit a really rough spot. We were relying on the good graces of a friend for shelter and some nights we couldn't even afford the 15 cent packet of ramen noodles for dinner. Both of us are fairly unemployable, having between us just one GED in a world where Starbucks can choose from doctorates, and so we were trying to start a business that could support us financially. We put every spare penny into getting gas for the car. We were getting barely a quarter of his previous pay from unemployment and that amount put us in an income bracket that disqualified us for government assistance with food and other bills. It was an incredibly difficult position to be in, especially after the year we'd had.

In this time, my husband made an amazing decision. Before he'd lost his job he'd promised a certain amount - roughly a tenth of our income - to a charity on a monthly basis. I found out that first month that losing his job hadn't changed that decision. Before he paid any other bills, before we went grocery shopping, he wrote a check to that charity. In his mind it wasn't even a question. He'd made a promise, and he knew that God could handle taking care of us whether he kept his promise or not. His integrity demanded that he follow through and his faith promised it would work out.

I was furious. I'm not proud to admit that, but I was. I was in full on McDuck mode, thinking only about how that money could have benefited us. When my husband later continued to give what small amounts we could to those in need around us, I got angrier. It created a crossroads in my life where I had to decide whether I was going to trust God and submit to my husband, or become a nuisance and try to control things.

Fortunately, I'd already been under mentorship for a while and I'd learned to think more in terms of who I wanted to become. I wanted to be someone who trusted my husband, who trusted God, and who walked in faith. So I made the decision to do so. When the nagging thoughts in the back of my head wouldn't go away I approached my husband with humility and explained my concerns. I talked to him about how I was worried that with us doing so much giving to others, there wouldn't be enough for us. That's when he explained his faith and that he already knew God was going to get us out of this, so it was easy for him to be generous with others. He explained that God had given us an opportunity to see what he could do, and so our job was just to trust him and to put our time and what money we did have to work in faith. We did a lot of volunteer work in that time, and we never missed one of those payments we'd promised to make.

I couldn't understand it at the time, but I stuck with my decision to trust God like he did. I prayed that God would prove my husband's faith and strengthen mine. It was an agonizing few days, waiting for a miracle. Finally, something did happen - and I almost didn't see it. We paid all of our bills for that month, even paying rent to our friend who was helping us. To this day I don't know where the money came from. After that, people started inviting us over for dinner, just to hang out. With no idea of our struggle (we kept a good front because we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves), people started being used by God to feed us. For the first few months, before business picked up for us, God fed us at the tables of people we had only just met and he somehow kept our bills paid. Then business slowly started to escalate.

Today, we are abundantly blessed. Our income has tripled from what it was while my husband was working at his job, and we've been put in a position to be able to bless others. I don't say this to boast! I want you to know that God is capable of taking care of us in ways we would have never imagined. But it all starts with faith. It all starts with that one step into what we don't know, trusting that God is going to make it work. And when you have very little in life, that process starts in your heart because of your decision to have faith -which is backed up by actions like giving.

Give to prove your faith, and to increase it. This will create in you a generous spirit, and only the generous spirit can receive all that God has for us.

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