It is very difficult to reflect on God’s role in financial hardship as an American who has lived for seven years in one of the world’s poorest nations. Despite my unique perspective, it is important to note that even Americans can feel the pinch of financial stress, hardship, or even poverty.
The 2019 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines have proposed that a household of four with an income of $25,750 per year or less qualifies as being under the poverty level. Although this seems like an unimaginable amount of money to my Congolese friends, it places an American family in the situation of barely paying the monthly bills.
But I have my own perspective. As a young, idealistic missionary volunteer, I thought that living in a hut in Africa to serve the Lord would be an adventure. Years later as a young, married missionary on deputation to raise support, I was shocked to hear a pastor at a conference honor our dedication to a life of poverty by proclaiming that my husband and I would likely never own a home. This declaration surprised me. Like I wasn’t aware that being a missionary was like being a poster child for a vow of poverty.
Over the years, we have felt the struggle of just making our budget, but how can I really bewail this when I know how the rest of the world lives. Many African countries, including the Congo, have a population that claims people live on a dollar a day. One preacher there that I really admire, once said that he knew when God wanted him to fast. He said, “When God does not provide food for supper, then I know he wants me to fast. God has always provided enough food for my children, but there were many days when my wife and I fasted because we lacked food.” This is something that I have never faced. Often as Americans, we ask God to help us lose weight simply because food is so readily available.
One missionary shared this story about a poor Christian man in Cambodia. The man told how that he was walking along a dirt road in his country. He had no food to feed his family. He prayed and asked God for food. As he continued to walk, a large truck loaded high with sacks of grain passed him on the rough road. Just as the truck passed him, it hit a large hole causing one of the sacks to fall off the truck right at the man’s feet.
The man stared at the truck for many minutes as it continued down the road and out of sight. Realizing that the truck driver was unaware of the lost sack of rice, the man picked up the sack, thanked God for providing food for his family, and headed home with a month’s worth of food.
David testified in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now I am old; but I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” David’s story here was that God is good to meet the financial needs of His children. Although I am not as poor as the federal poverty level guidelines, I have known the sacrifice of missionary service. Although my Congolese friends occasionally find themselves needing to fast at supper, the Congo is blessed with dependable rainy and dry seasons and have abundant crops every year that can feed their masses. Although Cambodian Christians may sometimes need to rely on their poor roads to provide a sack of rice, God is still their hope.
God is our hope in financial difficulties no matter where we are in the world. Another Scripture says that God Himself gives us the strength to work and provide for our needs. God is good. He is our hope. He can both give us strength to meet our own needs and provides in those seasons when we can’t.