Managing our Will in Tough Financial Times
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now but when I was a kid I used to be pretty fast. I was not blazing by any stretch, but I ran a respectable quarter mile (54.5 was my best time, which by the way would be the record at my son’s middle school). The quarter mile is the race that separates the men from the boys. One time around the track as fast as your little legs will carry you. It tests a lot of things but especially your will power.
The first part of the race is navigating the opening curve. Your legs are fresh and your adrenaline is pumping so it’s pretty easy. The backstretch is pretty boring and even though you are not tired, you are tempted to step off the track and walk straight out to the bus. By the last curve, you are starting to feel it but there is something about being almost done and the curvature of the track that makes this part of the race kind of fun. Then you find yourself staring down the final straightaway. You can finally see the finish line and out of nowhere a 100 pound gorilla jumps on your back. Your legs are burning. Your lungs are exploding. And your mind screams at you to stop. By this phase of the race I used to look down occasionally at my legs to make sure they were still moving. The only thing that moves you forward is the will to finish what you started and the fear of your track coach who will help you learn to persevere to the end at the next track practice. The key to managing the will in the quarter mile is to not look at the track, the crowd, your coach or even your own physical capabilities, but you must look at the finish line.
The same can be said about managing the will in tough financial times. You have to look past the calls of the creditors, the sacrifices of rice and beans and the never-ending cascade of no-we-can’t-do-that-right-now discussions. The Scripture says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and when you are dealing with difficult finances the heart can be sick a lot.
I am not a psychologist, so I don’t know exactly how the will works. I am more of a pop psychologist and my experience says that the will is tied to the part of the psyche that determines whether or not I will fight or run away. The will is the part of us that says I will or will not give up. One only has to look at the rash of bankruptcies these days to see that the temptation to give up and give in is a very real temptation. This chapter is not about bankruptcy, but rather about how can we deal with our will to win when faced with seemingly overwhelming circumstances.
How do we manage our will?
Manage Your Will Like Jesus Did
Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:36-39
One of the best examples of managing the will is seen in our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He desired to not go to the cross but was nevertheless committed to whatever the Father had for Him. How many times do we try to squirm out from underneath the trial and move to a more comfortable place? We cannot give into the temptation to move but must rather discern God’s will for the situation and then align our wills to His no matter the cost. Proverbs encourages us to, “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and to not lean on our own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) During difficult money seasons we must exert our wills to manage the resources we do have and we must resolve to hang in there till the bitter end. In the garden, He prayed with great fervor for the Father to take the cup of the cross away. He prayed till droplets of blood came from His pores. I have never had to deal with anything that intense and hope I never do. But, Jesus models for us how to mold our wills to the will of the Father when He says, “not My will but Your will be done”.
Manage Your Will like Paul Did
“And not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
This is one of my favorite verses. Paul had to endure a lot as he was one of the great pioneers of establishing the Church among the Gentiles and is a great example of how we should manage our will. In this passage, Paul gives us great insight into the cause and effect of perseverance and hope. The desired outcome that we all want is hope. Hope is brought about by proven character that has seen God work through difficulties before. Proven character comes from perseverance. And perseverance comes from dealing with trials and tribulations. To summarize the only way you get hope is to persevere through trials. That’s what James was saying when he said, “Consider it all joy brethren when you face various trials”. Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of trials? That sounds like crazy talk. Nobody is happy about trials. But, if we can show some God-centered resolve, we can begin to gain a worldview that doesn’t panic when the chips are down. We can learn to trust God and learn to lean on Him.
Part of our training regiments for track was this big hill outside of our school. The coach would line us up and we would run up and down the hill. As we got tired he would tell us to lean into the hill. I guess so that we would not lose our balance. But even more than that, he knew our hearts were weak and we needed to bear down when the going got tough.
In our financial trials we will sometimes face hills that we will have to lean into. We will be tempted to quit. But, we can’t quit. We have to persevere. The world is watching how we are managing these things. Will we be an example of godliness or worldliness? Will we give up? Will we show our exasperation? Will we manage our will-to-make-it-to-the-finish-line? Or will we step off the track and make our way to the bus? Listen to what the writer of Hebrews had to say about finishing well.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrew 12:1-3)
The easy thing to do is quit. But the great victories of our life that we pass on as our legacy are times that we persevered under great pressure. This includes financial stresses. We must press forward and not give into the temptation to walk off the track or worst yet go through the motions. Let’s finish well. What do you say?