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Devotional: Content in Christ

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A few months after Josh and I got married, we sat down to have a conversation about our finances. At the time, we were both working full time. Josh was working from home, but I was commuting an hour to and from work every day. In addition to working, I was also going to school full time taking online classes at Regent. We had also arranged to help take care of the horses at my parents farm several times a week as they had graciously agreed not to charge us board. Needless to say, I was spread pretty thin, and Josh could see it. After we looked at our income and expenses, Josh said “Gabs, I think you should quit your job and focus on school.” I was in my last semester working towards a bachelor’s degree and wanted to pursue a master’s. I knew that what I was doing was not sustainable in the long run and Josh knew it too. We were living comfortably with two salaries but felt that we could make it work just living off of Josh’s salary. We spent a few weeks praying about this decision and both of us felt like it was the right thing to do. Although I loved the people that I worked with, I was not pursuing a passion or a gifting in my current line of work. By quitting my job, I would be able to focus fully on school, which I loved, and I could pursue using some of my gifts and passions in a way that I felt would glorify the Lord. I began writing devotionals for Regent’s Online Newspaper, I took over the prayer ministry at church, and started looking into which master’s program I wanted to pursue. Money had never been an issue before and we weren’t living extravagantly - I was confident that the Lord had called me to this for a great purpose and would provide! I thought we had it all figured out.

I love how the Lord pursues us in our independence. I love how He never let’s us get too comfortable on our own. I say that, now, as I have reflected on the past year and a half and seen the ways that God has worked in my life to convict me of my desire to live apart from Him. One of the ways He has revealed that to me is through our financial struggles. One of the things I most appreciated from Pastor Barry’s sermon over the weekend was when he said that “money is kind of a surface idol, but below the idol of money are all these other idols - power, control, security, comfort, people’s approval. We use money to serve those masters. I get comfort and security from money because I know it preserves my lifestyle. It gives me freedom to go wherever I want and do whatever I want. Perhaps it’s people’s approval; I use money to buy things so that people will think good of me. The list goes on and on…” Shortly after I quit my job, a few things happened. Firstly, we found out that we were expecting Wesley. We were overjoyed at this wonderful news! But with pregnancy, comes financial obligation. I was going to the doctor monthly, early on, but when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, I was at the doctor several times a week for blood draws, ultrasounds, and nonstress tests to monitor Wesley’s heart rate with each visit adding up. Additionally, I had to go on a new medication for my ulcerative colitis because the medication I had been taking was no longer available due to supply chain issues with COVID. The new medication cost us $300 a month with insurance, and my doctor said that it was the only completely safe option while I was pregnant and breastfeeding so there was no alternative. On top of this, my dog, Tanner, was in the early stages of liver failure and was eventually diagnosed with cancer. Multiple trips to the vet and medication to make him comfortable was not cheap. When I had quit by job, we had not foreseen any of these major expenses. But within a few short months, we were living paycheck to paycheck. And I was scared.

I think this is why I appreciated what Pastor Barry said so much about how money is a surface level idol – the idols underneath reveal the truth about our hearts. When I think about my heart during that time, and even now as we continue to navigate living on one income, I believe that what I struggle with most is the idol of security. To be honest, I believe that I struggle with all of the idols he mentioned in some way – I can see the idol of control in my heart when I am frustrated that we can’t go somewhere or do something because we can’t afford it; I can see the idol of comfort each time I spend money outside of our grocery budget on a special treat. But the idol of security is the one that has risen above the rest in my thoughts as I have prayed over this for the past few days. I want to use money to feel secure because I don’t want to seek security in the Lord.

I am thankful for Pastor Barry’s sermon and for his boldness in challenging us to examine this topic. And I am thankful for the words of Paul, who so graciously reminds us that it is not money that offers us security or comfort or control... it is the Lord! In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul writes, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The financial difficulties we faced after I quit my job scared me and I have felt vulnerable ever since. But I have been living as if an influx of cash would be the solution – as if this would fix my heart and make me feel secure. But it is clear, in this passage, that money is not the security or the comfort that I seek. Pastor Barry said it well in this quote from his sermon on Sunday – “We can’t find true contentment and joy through our money or the things that money can buy. There is one secret to contentment, and it is seen in verse 13…How can Paul have contentment in plenty and in want? Through Christ who strengthens him. It is Christ, it is a relationship with Him, it is being in Him that we can deal with our circumstances whether we are in financial dire straits or God has blessed us with abundance. We can have contentment because our contentment is not found in those things, but in Christ alone.”

As I have reflected on my desire to find security through our finances, I am convicted of the many ways I attempt to live apart from God. But my independence has only brought me death. My spirit has weakened, and I have lived under a shadow of fear, turning away from the shelter of my loving Father. But Praise be to Him for His abundant grace and His arms that were waiting to welcome me back the second I turned to Him in repentance. Brothers and sisters, I do not know where you are seeking to live apart from God today. Maybe it is in your finances. Maybe it is in something else. But I know that our Heavenly Father longs for you to turn to Him and trust Him with your heart. He is your strength, your comfort, your security, your power, your identity, and so much more. Will you join me in seeking Him, forsaking these idols that lead us to destruction, and ask Him for strength to rest in His embrace? For it is only through His love that we will find true and lasting contentment – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19, ESV)