Ask Chuck: What Do You Do When You Hit Rock Bottom?
I have hit rock bottom with my finances. My wife and I got divorced last year and all the fallout from that forced me to file bankruptcy. As many do when they hit rock bottom, I’m trying to get back up but not sure where to start. I want to learn more about what God says about money but am faced with extremely challenging day-to-day financial decisions. I need some encouragement and advice.
Broken and Struggling
Dear Broken and Struggling,
I am so sorry that you have experienced this level of loss and pain. My hope is that I can give you great encouragement and direction for getting back on your feet again.
Brokenness is a condition that forces us to wholly depend on God. And though it’s incredibly difficult at times, the Bible advises us to look at our circumstances through a different filter than the way we may feel at the time. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
Though I can’t fully understand your pain, I know the God who does.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
God’s Word offers the best counsel in good times and in bad. People can change their methods, plans, and techniques with money but true transformation comes through embracing what God says is financially best for us. So let’s walk through the basics so you can identify a starting point and direction for rebuilding your life after bankruptcy and divorce. It will take self-control, a faithful heart, and disciplined hands to get there.
It’s All His
You must first acknowledge that God owns it all and you are the steward of what He’s given you. When you surrender everything to His lordship, you will discover new peace, freedom, and joy.
Despite your pain, you must make yourself get up and work. Great satisfaction can be found in using your talents and abilities in the workplace. Seek employment that is a good fit for your gifts and talents so that you can flourish. If you are not content with your current situation, consider taking Crown’s Career Direct assessment and talking with a trained counselor.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 32:23-24)
It is likely that you have very little money remaining following the bankruptcy. The key is to spend less than you earn, live frugally and save like never before. Go to a cash-only system, recording every dollar you spend on a notepad or smartphone. This will help you analyze your spending habits.
Give up eating out, going through the drive-thru, entertainment, and other indulgences so you can effectively appropriate every dollar you earn. Eat at home, make your own coffee, and only buy what is essential. Seek inexpensive housing by thinking outside the box. Rent a room, basement, or garage apartment in exchange for yard work or home maintenance. Or, take in a renter or roommate where you currently live. Seek cheap transportation options. Use the library, attend free events in your area, exercise outdoors, and spend time with encouraging, spiritually-accountable friends.
These may seem like drastic measures but look at them as temporary means to an end. Once you have your finances back on solid ground you can live more freely within your budget. These money-saving tips may be helpful.
Begin building an emergency savings account. Determine to save $1,000 as quickly as possible, and eventually three to six months of living expenses. This money is for true emergencies only, not gifts or vacations. It will be your protection against debt in unexpected circumstances.
The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets. (Proverbs 21:20)
Crown has a free, easy-to-use guide that walks you through the process of making a budget so it’s neither overwhelming nor intimidating. Whether you use an app, a spreadsheet, or a notebook to budget, the Easy Guide to a Budget You Love can help! If you have an inconsistent income, check out this information.
Max Out Retirement
Invest aggressively, if possible, especially if your employer offers a matching contribution to a 401k or 403b. Diversify, choosing investments that align with Biblical values. Plan to postpone retirement to the latest possible date that your health will allow. Anticipate working in some capacity even if it won’t be your current job. If you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you’ll need to create your own savings strategy.
People are living longer, and the cost of living continues to escalate. So adopt a working mentality and choose to enjoy each day the Lord gives you. I personally hope to work as long as the Lord can use me.
Avoid get-rich-quick schemes. Instead, seek wise counsel, set long-term goals, and pray for discernment.
Proverbs 23:4-5 warns, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”
Romans 5 offers a process that will lead you to reestablish hope as you begin the journey ahead. It says when we suffer that will lead us to learn to persevere; when we learn to persevere we will develop character; and when we have strong character, we will be able to live with hope in the midst of our challenges.
Exercise self-control. Have a faithful heart and disciplined hands. Keep moving forward. Day by day you will see hope return. Hope will not disappoint you because God’s love will be poured into your heart.
Originally published on the Christian Post, June 15, 2018