Two years ago I found myself having to face the question, “Do I trust God enough to provide for my financial needs in an emergency, or do I take care of it myself with credit cards and loans?” The answer may surprise you.
In 2015 I went to the doctor for a routine check-up, and she sent me immediately to the hospital for an ultrasound. I had several large unknown masses in my abdomen that had grown significantly over the past year. The only way to know for sure whether the masses were cancerous or not meant I needed to have surgery. Sooner than later.
For three weeks I researched my options, and none of them felt right for me. I found myself frustrated and then depressed that all the traditional surgical options involved undesired long-term side-effects and risks. The insurance sanctioned procedures benefited everyone except the patient, yet I could see no alternatives available to me.
How would I pay for it, where should I have it done, what about recovery time, how would it affect my ability to return to work? I tried to figure all these concerns out myself – while still depressed that I didn’t want to pick any of the current choices. There had to be a better option.
Finally, I did what I should have done at the beginning, I knelt down and prayed to the Lord to show me His will.
Immediately a search phrase related to the condition popped into my head, and I typed it into my search engine. The first website that popped up looked too good to be true. It described a radical alternative procedure that no other doctor mentioned, it would be more invasive but actually safer overall, and the long-term result should end up much more positive than the usual outcome for this diagnosis. Also, without all the usual long-term side-effects.
It took me only about an hour to find the site, read numerous testimonials, and know without any doubt this alternative procedure was the answer to my prayer.
Several concerns came up once I made the decision:
- Because insurance didn’t sanction the procedure, the costs would need to come out of my own pocket.
- I would need to fly to California from my home state five days before and stay an additional seven days after discharge. I would need airfare, food, housing and transportation for that length of time.
- After surgery, I’d have lifting restrictions during recovery and needed help. I couldn’t live alone during that time or climb stairs like where I live usually.
- I would need to leave my work assignment early and return to my next assignment later than planned. This would mean less income earned and a longer time span until I received a salary again – August to November seemed a long time between paychecks.
Knowing with peace and confidence that the Lord opened up this door for me I began to pray for His guidance in how to handle this financially. Here’s how God provided for each need:
- The surgeon worked in a private practice and could set his own fees. He worked with a very specific team at a certain hospital and required cash up front. (I carefully researched that this wasn’t a scam before paying.)
Because he required cash, the cost of the procedure and hospital stay, if insurance paid for it would have been over $20,000, cost me only $5300. They told me if ANY bills arrived (after the surgery) I should forward them to him, my up front portion covered all of my out of pocket requirements.
- Earlier that year I’d received a $500 flight voucher from Delta when I volunteered to give up my seat on a crowded flight. I used that to fund my flights to California, to my cousin’s house, and finally back to my home state.
I originally stressed over the housing and almost booked 11 days in a hotel for $2300, plus 11 days’ worth of restaurant meals due to no kitchen. I didn’t have the money to cover this. It would have all gone on the credit card.
But, after praying for God to provide His better way, a friend from work messaged me that her parents planned to take care of me at their home! They would pick me up at the airport and take me to the hospital. I would also stay with them after the surgery until they cleared me to fly the week after.
Cost: free! Because I stayed at my friend’s parent’s home, I could cook all my meals in their kitchen and avoid any restaurant bills.
Another friend also told me about the Uber app right before leaving for California. Instead of $120 taxi rides in Los Angeles several times during the week, Uber cost me between $6-$8 per trip. Another blessing resulting from a friend helping me at the exact right time. I don’t believe in coincedences.
- My cousin had faced surgery of her own the previous year and understood what recovery felt like. She so graciously opened up her home to me for the five weeks I couldn’t lift or drive. I cried when she offered me a place, and she didn’t ask for anything in return. Such a blessing!
4. Lastly, I needed funds to cover the costs in cash up front. When I started my contract in May that year I felt very strongly that I needed to save every possible cent for the upcoming summer break. It so strongly impressed me [with a sense of urgency unlike ever before] that every paycheck I diligently set any non-bill money aside in a separate category. I even stopped contributing extra to my debt payoff plan to do it. I spent nothing extra.
Once I knew I needed $5300 cash up front, I also reached out to family and friends with a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the surgery, now only a few short weeks away. They graciously gave about 1/5th of the fees in 20 days’ time. Their generosity blessed me so much!
When it all tallied up, I’d saved enough, with the crowdfunding money added, to pay for all the medical expenses and routine bills during the three months not worked, out of pocket. God knew in advance what I’d need and provided it through extreme generosity of friends and family and impressing on me to not frivolously spend my paychecks.
I had to think twice about all purchases along the way; God planned my salary for that year to meet all my needs. If I’d taken my spending into my own hands (like so often happens), then His provision wouldn’t have been enough. What an eye-opening lesson! God does provide for our needs.
At this point, you might feel amazed at all the ways God provided money to keep me from going into debt, but sadly that’s not exactly how my story went.
Did I Really Trust God Completely with My Finances?
I still took out an 11% personal line of credit to cover most of the $5300 amount and put all of the incidental charges related to food, transportation, pharmacy needs, etc. on my credit card at 9% interest.
Because even with all these specific answers to prayer, I didn’t trust God enough to sustain my finances until I received my next paycheck in November. August to November seemed too impossibly long.
So, I took out the line of credit to help God and “make sure that everything would be OK” by wisely not spending the money I already had in the bank until I knew it was safe to do so. [Eye roll]
In reality, I trusted myself more than God. As a result, it took me five months to knock out that debt with all the added daily interest and loan origination fees added on.
I could have paid it off in cash at the start, walking by faith, and probably witnessed an even bigger blessing. I definitely would have avoided the added debt.
What an expensive lesson.
I’m truly thankful to my Heavenly Father for His patience with me. He loves me and provides for me so carefully, even when I display a noticeable lack of faith regarding money matters.
After living through that amazing experience (the surgery and recovery all went remarkably well), I hope that next time I’ll be quicker to pray and slower to take out a loan. God wants to keep us from being a slave to the lender so that we may use the resources He provides for higher purposes than simply paying off debt.
I’ll be honest and admit that I’m a slow learner. Hopefully I don’t have to practice this a lot before I get it right.
Access to easy credit – like loans and credit cards – feels like a safety net, in the moment, but they also enslave us to the lender for an unnecessary length of time. Relying on credit may also rob others their blessing from sacrificial giving.
I’m so thankful for my family, friends, friend’s parents, and my cousin who had the opportunity to give. I will forever feel gratitude for their generosity and answer to my prayers in my time of need. God used them to bless my life and I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to help others in the future also.
Have you ever experienced financial situations like this in your own life? If so, did you trust God to provide (when the evidence all pointed so clearly to God leading you a specific way)? Or, did you take matters into your own hands, as I did, and then spend months digging out of debt needlessly?
Share with me in the comments your perspective on the role of faith in your finances!
Until next time, xo!
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