I’ve made a lot of poor choices with my money. Is there any hope for me?
Our failure to handle money in ways consistent with biblical wisdom can create a lack of financial margin (for emergencies, saving, and giving), problems with debt and creditors, and legal issues. It can also strain relationships between spouses, and even with children. Our money failures can also become a distraction, sapping valuable time and emotional energy from other pressing concerns.
Financial difficulties caused by our failures and mistakes can tempt us in various ways. We may feel anxious about being able to pay our bills. Or, because of an inability to save, we may become fearful and worry about our future. We may not be generous to others in the ways we want. Our problems can also cause us to doubt God’s love, care, and provision for us.
From Failure to Faith
Acknowledge that dwelling on the past and wallowing in self-pity or regret won’t help (Phil 3:13-14). Then turn to Scripture and seek God’s help and guidance. God’s love is far greater than any financial loss we have suffered. We know we can trust him and his Word.
1. God is sovereign and has total control over all things.
If God is sovereign over all things, he must also be sovereign over our finances—which includes both our successes and our failures with the resources he has entrusted to us (1 Chron. 29:12).
If God is sovereign over all things, then he must also be sovereign over our finances—which includes our successes and our failures with the resources he has entrusted to us.
We know God cares for his children, and God alone chooses how, when, and with what means he will accomplish that. We also know that God allows hardship and difficulty, which can take different forms, for various reasons, to conform us to the image of Christ and draw us closer to him (Rom. 8:28).
2. God has richly blessed us in Christ, and through him, provided everything we need.
Romans 8:32 asks, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God graciously provides for his children—first, for our salvation in Christ and then everything we need. That’s not a possibility or a maybe—it’s a certainty as sure as God’s character.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:38–39). God didn’t quit loving you because you made a financial mistake, or got fired at work, or borrowed too much for a new home. He doesn’t care about you any less, and his care for you won’t be any less. In Psalm 37:25, the writer says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”
3. Although God is sovereign and has promised to care for us, we must still take responsibility for our actions or inaction.
God didn’t quit loving you because you made a financial mistake, or got fired at work, or borrowed too much for a new home.
God understands our weaknesses and failures (Heb. 4:15). While acknowledging God’s sovereignty, we must humbly confess our failure (and if our sin contributed to it, ask his forgiveness). God can use our financial mistakes and failures to expose our lack of knowledge, weakness, or foolishness. But it can also reveal the idols, self-indulgent attitudes, or non-biblical attitudes about money we have allowed to affect our lives.
“Failing forward” means accepting our failure as something from God’s hand that he intends for our good; something we can learn from to grow in knowledge and wisdom. From there, we have to act. As my pastor once said, “Sovereignty does not mean passivity.”
Here are some things you can do, with God’s help, to fail forward.
1. Trust in God, not money.
Sometimes, our money-related fears and worry reveal that we are trusting in them rather than God. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (Prov. 11:28). When our hope and trust is in money, the lack of it can cause fear, worry, and doubt. God loves and cares about us, including our financial futures. We can trust in him, rather than riches. Whether or not we’re doing okay financially, we can be tempted to view them as our primary source of security. We can only find real security in God himself.
2. Trade “if only” for “God is enough.”
One of the greatest enemies to our efforts to deal with failure is regret. Regrets are understandable, but not helpful if we dwell too much on them. Instead of focusing on our failure and its fallout, Colossians 3:2 tells us to “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
3. Stop trying to control the things you can’t control.
God is the only one who knows and controls the future (Dan. 2:21; Isa. 46:9–10). There are things we can do to plan for the future, but it’s important to remember that there are a lot of things outside our control. We can’t control the economy, inflation, geopolitical events, politics, or much of anything else. However, God is in control, and we can trust him to work all things for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). We would do well to focus on what we can control and trust God for the rest.
4. Practice gratitude for what you have.
Your mistakes or failures may have left you with some problems. The Bible offers us good advice for such cases: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). We need to learn to practice gratitude for whatever God has provided for us. That does not mean that we shouldn’t try to do something about our problems; it means we focus on what God has blessed us with instead of what we lack, trusting God to act according to his promises.
5. Seek wise counsel from Scripture and others.
One way God provides for those who are struggling is through the wise counsel of others (Prov. 11:14; 19:20). Find someone you can trust for wise biblical advice and accountability (such as pastors/elders of your church or a stewardship ministry). Also, seek professional help if you need it.
6. Make course corrections and act based on biblical wisdom.
God offers much wisdom in the Bible about how to manage our financial affairs. Learning and applying the wisdom that God has given us and then trusting him for the result puts us in the best position for good change. However, nothing is guaranteed, other than God’s unfailing love.
Learning and applying the wisdom that God has given us and then trusting him for the result puts us in the best position for good change.
Doing these things, while resting in the love and promises of provision from our Father, will help us think rightly about our savings and retirement plans.
God knows what’s going on in your life—and with your finances. He knows your weaknesses, mistakes, and failures. God knows all your needs even before you ask.
TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected]