There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. - Ecclesiastes 3:1 

As another Chicago winter stretches on, I've been longing for spring.  And isn't that how it is whenever we go through a wintry financial season?  We can't wait for a better one to begin.

In my mid 20's, I inherited $60,000 from an uncle.  I used the money to create my dream job, a newsletter for people who take golf vacations.  The money enabled me to play some of the greatest golf courses in the world: Pebble Beach in California, the spectacular golf courses of Spain's Costa del Sol, and many more.

Two years later I woke up to the hard reality that I had transformed that gift into $20,000 of credit card debt.  I had become so acclimated to the life I was enjoying and so blind to what was happening with my finances that when the money ran out I just kept funding my adventure on credit cards.

The next four and a half years, during which I paid it all off, often felt like one long winter.  I couldn't wait for the debt repayment process to end.  But along the way I found some encouragement reading about an affliction faced by the apostle Paul.

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me" (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Boy, could I relate.  My debt felt like the nastiest of thorns that had been twisted into my flesh.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me" (2 Corinthians 12:8).

Three times?  How about a gazillion times?

"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I read those last verses I felt a tremendous weight lift from my shoulders.  God had already used my financial difficulties to draw me into a relationship with him.  But Paul's words told me there was an additional purpose for what I was going through.  I realized God was using that time to teach me not to lean on my own understanding, to trust in his provision, and to help me develop more patience.  Ultimately, that financial train wreck led me to my life's work: writing and teaching workshops on how to manage money according to the timeless wisdom of God's word.

If you're in the midst of a difficult financial season, it's very natural to just grit your teeth, tough it out, and focus on getting to a better place.  But my encouragement is to look for all that God wants to teach you during this trial.  It's probably more than you think. 

What is he revealing about the true source of the problems you're facing?  What does he want you to remember about his character and his concern for you?  How might he enable you to use this tough time for the good of others?

Whatever trial you're going through, you can rest assured in God's promise to provide for you (Matthew 6:25-34) and know that he has a purpose he wants to accomplish (Romans 8:28).

The other night as I ran a bag of trash outside to our garbage can and turned to make my usual quick dash toward the warmth of our home, I glanced up and was stopped by the beauty of trees coated in fresh snow glistening under a full moon. I stood there for a moment just taking it in.  Then I did something I do far too infrequently: I thanked God for the winter.

February 1, 2010


Matt Bell is the author of two personal finance books published by NavPress: "Money, Purpose, Joy" (September 2008) and "Money Strategies for Tough Times" (April 2009).  He speaks at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country.  To learn more about his work, visit his web site at www.MattAboutMoney.com.