An email arrived from a friend with some discouraging news. She and her husband had launched out on a new venture that, so far at least, has not worked out, putting them in some financial difficulty. A friend at their church urged them to consider applying for help from a fund set up for that purpose (I am leaving out some identifying details). Even though they never actually received any money from the church, some other people accused them of being only concerned about getting their own needs met. This has been very painful for our friends to endure. They have tried to explain themselves but it hasn't worked out so far.
What do you do next? Here are my thoughts on the matter:
1. Anything having to do with money tends to bring out the worst in all of us. I wish that weren't true but it seems to be as true for the church as for any other place on earth.
2. Sometimes people hear what they want to hear regardless of the facts. We should not be overly surprised when despite our best efforts our actions are criticized and our motives are questioned.
3. When we are attacked we must speak the truth as graciously as possible. Sometimes the Lord uses these very painful times to move us on to new ministries and new areas of service, and sometimes to a new church altogether. I don't think we can always see in advance what God may be doing in these times of trouble. Speak the truth in love and leave the results in God's hands.
4. Fight against becoming a victim. You know you're in the victim mode when a) you feel wronged, b) usually by your friends, c) involving unfair accusations, d) where you can't get your side of the story fairly told, so that e) the whole thing eats at you day and night, and f) you can't stop talking about it, so that g) you become consumed with "the issue" until h) you lose your focus completely and i) sometimes say or do foolish things that j) hurt yourself and others and k) permanently damage relationships so that l) you end up miserable and frustrated and m) nothing is solved.
5. Here's a prayer I've prayed many times that has always helped me. "O Lord, let the truth come out and let your will be done." That's a good prayer because it focuses on the Lord, not on you or your accusers. What you want is truth to be told and God's will to be done. In almost all these situations, the truth from God's point of view will be more than what you see or what your critics see. And God's will always goes beyond our limited field of vision.
6. Above all, keep your own heart right. Stay in the Word. Listen to Christian music. Sing a lot—out loud. Hang out with positive people. Forgive and forgive and forgive. Ask God to make you stronger and closer to the Lord. And give thanks that God is working in ways you can't imagine to accomplish his purposes.
Will all of this "solve" your problems? No, and it is not meant to. But at some point good theology must kick in to encourage our hearts. The two of you took a step of faith and so far it has not worked out the way you expected. But that doesn't mean you did wrong. It only means that so far it hasn't been what you thought it would be. The unfair accusations about money are frustrating but not surprising. Money does funny things to people, even inside the church.
Finally, pray that God will use this time to bring both of you even closer together. We love you both and are praying for you to pass through this trial and come out on the other side even stronger than before.