Money matters can be difficult to overcome in any relationship, and it’s all too easy to turn on each other instead of facing financial challenges as a cohesive unit. In this article, Alissa Coburn draws on her own experience to share how you and your spouse can work together as a team (both spiritually and practically) and, in doing so, honor God and one another through seasons of financial hardship.
Most couples expect to face financial hardships during their lifetime together, but for my husband Josiah and I those hardships came far sooner than we imagined. When we met, I was a single working mother with 3 children and he was a grocery manager. We took a biblical financial literacy course before we got married and felt fairly confident in our financial future. That changed rapidly.
NAVIGATING UNEXPECTED MONEY MATTERS
A month and a half after we said “I do,” the Lord blessed us with our first pregnancy, and we had many decisions to make. Would I continue to work? If so, who would watch the baby? Could we afford childcare? If I stayed home, would we homeschool? We had talked about all these things before marriage and answered them with a vague “maybe someday.” But ‘someday’ suddenly loomed over us and decisions had to be made.
I felt a deep longing to stay at home and homeschool our children. Josiah, who was homeschooled himself, wanted the same thing but couldn’t see how it was possible. If we made that decision, our income would be cut by more than half. And no matter how much we trimmed our budget, we would be in the red.
Confused and scared, we cried and prayed together, asking the Lord to show us His will. After weeks, the only answer that gave us peace was for me to come home after the baby was born. We simply had to trust that God would provide—and He has!
We’ve been married 10 years now. At many points our budget hasn’t made any sense on paper. We’ve often dreamt of the days when we’ll be able to put our financial woes behind us. But in many ways they’ve been a gift. We have had to learn to trust the Lord to guide us when our natural eyes could not see a way. And we’ve marveled as He’s shown His miraculous provision over the years. We’ve leaned on Him in faith as Josiah and I now raise our support as marriage and family missionaries.
Over the years we have had to learn how to work as a team under pressure and amidst seemingly dire circumstances. There have been plenty of squabbles about money matters. But in the end we’ve realized that facing our issues as a cohesive unit is the only way to honor God and one another through financial hardship. Listed below are just a few ways we’ve learned to come together as a team, both spiritually and practically.
In order to succeed, a team needs to step onto the field (or other respective arena) with the confidence that they can win. For Christian couples battling financial issues, this confidence shouldn’t be in our own ability to conquer. Rather it should be in our God who has already done the conquering. We call that faith.
God is extremely clear on who we should trust to provide for us. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He modeled asking God for daily provision (Matthew 6:11). He then told them: “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
If you’re like me, “do not be anxious” is easier said than done. Nevertheless, our faithful and loving God calls us to bring each of our problems and worries to Him and lay them at His feet with thankfulness, knowing in advance that He will meet our needs. He promises that when we do this, a peace beyond our understanding will rest on us and guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7).
If we can navigate our financial struggles (or any other issue) with this kind of faith and confidence in God as our Provider, then we’re guaranteed to be a winning team!
Legendary baseball player Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.” In the same way, you and your husband could both be financially astute and spiritually dedicated, but if you’re facing off against one another instead of coming before the Lord together, you’re hurting your own team and impeding your victory.
Again, Jesus gave the answer to His disciples when He said to them, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:19-20). The formula looks like this: (you + your husband) x Jesus = more than enough.
Josiah and I don’t always excel at this. We go through seasons where we pray consistently and faithfully with one another. But then we allow life to get in the way and our prayers together become increasingly infrequent. Eventually spiritual oneness seems a distant memory. When we allow that to happen, we find ourselves bickering over money, scheduling, or any number of issues. However, when we come back together, united before the Lord, He is faithful to fill both our spiritual and physical needs.
In sports, we say “Keep your eye on the ball!” God says, “Keep your eyes on Me and on eternity.” Either way, focus matters.
A camera’s autofocus feature will automatically focus on what’s nearest, with subjects further back becoming blurry. Unfortunately, that means one out of place item can ruin the focus of an entire picture. Our hearts do the same thing. If we keep our problems and obstacles in the forefront of our minds, only seeing the situations in front of us, we lose focus of our mighty God and the fact that our earthly problems are nothing in comparison with the eternity of glory and goodness that awaits those who follow Christ. So we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)!
When money is tight and we don’t know how we’ll get by, it can be easy to focus solely on the problems in front of us and lose sight of what’s important. That, however, is a mindset of the flesh, and nothing good comes from that. As believers we need to draw close to the Lord so that He is at the forefront of our minds and thoughts. Then, as we gain His perspective—the mindset of the Spirit—we gain life and peace (Romans 8:6). Keep your team focused!
I would argue that spiritual practices are practical, but we sometimes need financial direction and insight in the earthly realm too. Here are just a few steps to get you pointed in the right direction.
Learning about financial health has been vital for our marriage. We took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University before we were married, and because we bought the DVDs we’ve revisited the information many times since. We also recently took a “Faith and Finance” course with our missions organization (in cooperation with Crown Financial Ministries) because as missionaries we want to steward the resources we’re given well. Truly, though, that’s a call to all believers.
No matter how much knowledge you think you have about financial matters, taking a class or getting financial coaching is an excellent investment in your marriage. When we learn together, we develop a bond over the topic and a shared language to use as we dialogue about our issues. If you’ve never taken a financial course together (and perhaps even if you have), know that this step is a crucial part of coming together as a team. Josiah and I always recommend finding a faith-based financial course, though, because the world’s way and God’s often do not coincide.
Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Beyond the spiritual steps listed above, having a plan for how to get out of a financial hole (or just a tight spot) is the next best thing for bringing peace to your heart and home.
Before Josiah and I took the aforementioned “Faith and Finance” class, it had been a long time since we’d revisited our financial knowledge, and we were stuck in a rut. Money was so tight that budgeting seemed almost impossible. Our income didn’t cover our expenses no matter how we worked the numbers.
However, in our course’s workbook there was a place to plot out your current income and expenditures, as well as a place to budget for the future. We knew our income would increase slightly in the coming months, and working out a future budget allowed us to see that breathing room was coming. The financial advisors we met with at the end of the class reminded us of some key steps and helped us make a plan to get out of the hole and start saving. That meeting brought us so much peace!
If you’re taking a financial literacy class, budgeting and investment planning should be part of the course. Either way, you must make a plan for how you’ll spend your money together, because in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Without a plan, you flounder; but if you have a plan and fail to execute it (or execute it poorly or inconsistently) it leads to the same conclusion. This step is fairly simple and straightforward, but it’s a critical one—and one Josiah and I often get hung up on.
We have stellar intentions, but we also have seven children and a lot going on. In life’s busyness, it can be difficult to make the changes necessary to execute all our well-laid financial planning. Nevertheless, we must persevere!
Reassessing is probably one of the most valuable and least-utilized steps in financial management. Is our plan working? Does it need changes? Are we executing it well or only halfway? What do we find most difficult? What’s going well?
If, like Josiah and I, you have trouble implementing your financial game plan, this step is a fantastic failsafe. For this reason, it’s important to set this date far ahead of time. Make it an event. Put it in your calendar with as many notifications as you need, and set it before you even begin the execution phase! If you do this, you’ll be able to catch yourself before you drift too far off course.
Remember, no matter what your finances look like, you are loved and treasured by God, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and your husband is not your enemy—he’s your teammate for life!
Which of these points from Alissa did you find most helpful? What financial tips would you add to the list?
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