How to Fight Against Fear When Managing Your Finances

fear of finances

Over the last few months, I’ve had a lot of personal changes.  Our family has moved back to the States after living overseas.  I’ve made the transition from working as a missionary to a missional entrepreneur.

In the midst of all the transition, I’ve had to make a lot of important decisions.  What has amazed me most about it is how often fear becomes one of the key motivating factors when making a decision.

As I’ve talked with others, I’ve noticed this theme repeated.  Fear takes a much more important role in our decision making that any of us cares to admit.

Finance, Giving, and Fear

I’m now self-employed in the sense that no one regularly writes me a check for a set amount of money.

Our family has committed to living according to something called the graduated tithe.  When God has provided us with more than what we need in any given year, the opportunity is open for us to use those resources for God’s good work.

But a question always lingers in the back of my mind – what if business is slow next year?  Will I regret giving that money instead of saving it?  What if my investments don’t work out?

At the root these questions stem from fear.

The Faith and Fear Battle

I think of faith and fear as two ends of a teeter-totter (or see-saw, depending on your background).  As one increases, the other decreases.

When Jesus walked on the water (Mt. 14:22-33), the disciples’ first reaction was one of fear.  When Peter started to walk on the water, he began to feel afraid.  Jesus questions him, insinuating that the doubt is a lack of faith.  When our fear grows, it is a sign that our faith is decreasing.

While the disciples were in a boat during a storm, they feared for their lives (Lk. 8:22-25).  Once He calms the storm, Jesus questions them about their absence of faith.  The assumption is that where there is more faith, there is less fear.

I believe there are occasions when God calls us to manage our finances from foundations of faith, but we’re paralyzed by fear.

The Curse of the “What If”

  • What if I leave my job for that ministry … will I be able to pay my bills?
  • What if I give a portion of my income … will I still be able to eat?
  • What if I save more for retirement … will I be able to retire with dignity?
  • What if I don’t save this money … will I have enough for tomorrow?

The curse of the “what if” is that we can think of every possible variable if something goes wrong.  Instead of trusting, we want control.  We want to save every dollar so we can feel secure.  We want to invest a lot of money so we can stand on our own strength.

The problem is that as long as fear is our guiding financial consideration, we end up doing nothing for God.  We don’t do God’s will because we fear what might or might not happen in the future.

Yet, having faith is exactly what God calls us to do.  In Matthew 6:25-34, I believe that God is saying that He will provide our needs if we walk with faith.  Too many of us won’t do what God wants us to do because fear paralyzes us.  How can God’s good work continue when our lives are ruled by fear? The only alternative is to give greater priority to faith.  By choosing to live by faith, we diminish the role of fear in our finances.

Faith and Fear Caveats

  1. We are called to trust him when we’re doing His work and responsibly managing what he’s entrusted to us.  The point of this article is not to say don’t get a job, stay at home and watch TV, and trust God to provide.  We need to be active doing what God wants us to do and be sure that we’re seeking first the kingdom in the midst of the good work we are doing.
  2. We are called to give a reasonable amount of attention to our own financial needs.  In 1 Tim. 5:16, we are reminded that if we are able, we should not be a burden to the church.  I know many people who refuse to take care of their own financial needs and say that they are doing it based on faith.  As Christians, we are best able to help others when we remove ourselves from the potential of being a burden to the church.

Have you ever noticed yourself making financial decisions based on fear?  What do you do to keep your focus in the right place?  How do you overcome financial fear?

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  1. [email protected]

    Craig, this is an absolutely fantastic post. As a pastor and life coach, I’ve met a lot of people who have let fear guide their life. They keep themselves from taking steps they know they need to take, or from doing things they know God wants them to do, because of the fear of failure.

    The parable of the talents give us an example of this as well, where the servant given one talent was fearful that if he invested it he might lose it and his boss would be angry with him, so he buried it and it became totally useless. But when his boss came back, he told the servant that he expected him to put his talent to work (even if in a small way) so that it might bring forth some kind of increase.

    My take on it is that we need to be faithful with the resources God has given us, and do our best to learn how to manage them and make them grow, while also giving to help meet the needs of others in the best ways we know how. And then we need to rest in the fact that God loves us, that he gave us the resources to begin with, and that he’ll be excited to see what we’ve done with what he’s given us, no matter how much or how little. 1 John 4:18 tells us that when we truly rest in his love, there is no room for fear to take hold or grow in our lives.

    • JP

      I like what you said Rich.

      It reminds me of a quote from Ray Dalio:

      “…for most people happiness is much more determined by how things turn out relative to their expectations rather than the absolute level of their conditions. For example, if a billionaire loses $200 million he will probably be unhappy, while if someone who is worth $10 thousand unexpectedly gets another $2 thousand, he will probably be happy.”

  2. Chris

    Recently I’ve realized those fears that paralyze me are really the fact that I don’t fully believe these two simple truths: God is good and God loves me.

  3. Leo Cesna

    Great post Craig! As a Christian and Registered Investment Advisor I’ve faced the “Finance, Giving, and Fear Fight” both personally and professionally.

    To “piggy back” on your graduated tithing approach I might recommend that a young person with limited income start out by tithing 2% of each paycheck, followed by saving 2% in an emergency fund, and 2% in a retirement account. I might further suggest increasing their allotments to each by 1% each year until they reached a goal of 10% tithe, 10% retirement, and a fully funded emergency fund containing at least 3-6 months living expenses. I call this the “Bucket Strategy” which is designed to gradually create financial security and reduce the fear factor.

    I believe the following scriptures support my thesis:

    Proverbs 22:3 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.

    1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.

    Genesis 41:34-36 Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt.

    BTW – Thanks Rich for the parable of the talents, I use that to guide me as well. And Craig, thanks for 1 Tim 5:16,. I missed that one but I am adding it to my list.

  4. Tom Strauss

    This is a very good article on an important issue. Especially in uncertain economic times, it’s easy to let our fear of the future overshadow our faith in God to provide what we need. I too see faith and fear as the two ends of a seesaw. When we allow God’s word to permeate our heart, and realize that He doesn’t allow anything to come against us that we can’t handle with His help, the fear dissipates. Jeremiah 17:7 is a great verse to help keep our faith on track: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD.”

  5. Todd - Fearless Men

    This really is a genius topic to cover. Facing financial troubles, low account balances, alert notices and the like can create some heavy stress on someone. It’s easy to just want to avert the eyes and think about better things and better times.

    You’re right on with the “what if” mentality. Instead of fully being engaged of the mission ahead, we can spend 50% of our energy on what we fear will happen and only 50% on what is actually in the moment happening.

  6. JP

    Craig – thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Fear drives a lot of what I do with varying degrees at different points in my life. I feel you! I’m still learning how to stop and say “What is driving me to take this action?”

    A few thing have helped me develop this skill:
    – Just be yourself – It’s much easier to notice when you’re driven by fear if you are constantly striving to be your true self. If you’re pretending to be cool or fit in then it get’s too complex
    – Reflect – just take a few moments each day. Relax.
    – Celebrate – feel enriched with what you have. Be thankful. Have fun!
    – Connect – take the time to connect with others. You won’t feel so alone (which is the root of fear)

  7. Yovania Macias

    It was great for me to come across this and read it because as a single working mother of 4 I live in constant fear of failing financially and I get over whelmed when the car breaks down or my child needs $$ for books for school things like that throw me off and my budget taking me months to get back on track on my budget it does scare me and then that’s when the stress kicks in and I start to panic. Even though I have subsided a little on issue and have prayed asking God to guide me bc I know as a Christian woman of faith that God knows what my needs are before I even do and meets them always. I need to stop worrying so much I know this. I need help in this area bc it is scary when everyone depends on you to provide and take care of things.

  8. Rob Norval

    Craig, Thanks for your insightful article. I really liked the word picture of the see-saw. It’s funny because when you’re struggling to have faith it feels like you’re all the way in toward the pivot point and have no leverage. I’ve found that as I take little moves outward to give, and see God’s blessing, that my faith is built up. When I look back it helps me to have faith to move even further out, giving even more, and trusting that God will bring the blessing as he has in the past. He is true to His Word. – Thanks again.

  9. JB

    This article was just what I needed right now. The comments especially those by JP and Yovania bought tears to my eyes as they brought me back to a devastating setback I experienced about a week and a half ago. Prior to this I had been making an effort to effectively keep my faith over fear gauge in check with faith winning out most of the time. But the last 6wks have been particularly rough for me – some of the lowest points of my life. I don’t like the term bad luck. I really don’t believe in luck being good/bad so I’ll use the term ‘hard luck’ which I heard someone use recently. I thought it a more fitting encapsulation of what I’ve been going through. I’m humble enough but still quite embarrassed and somewhat ashamed to admit that I’ve allowed fear to take over in a number of instances because all the decisions I was making were leading to the most undesirable outcomes. I faltered over and over again. I stopped trusting myself, the fear became a paralyzing force, and it just snowballed into this daily struggle to make any decision even the simplest ones like what to eat. Seriously, it (my mental state) could best be described as maddening and neurotic. On the day in question I was faced with a financial emergency and the clock was ticking. I kept trying to talk to myself (and to Him) to trust and to have faith that everything would work out in my favor. But I allowed doubt second-guessing and then panic to seep in and eventually take over clouding my judgement. I had prayed the night before and in hindsight I saw all of the life preservers he was throwing me and trying to help me create to save myself from drowning. I didn’t see any of them until it was too late. I was blinded by those fearful emotions and didn’t allow the blessing to be received.

    This event left me shaken and so emotionally wrought that I couldn’t sleep for days I cried uncontrollably and was in a constant state of shoulda coulda woulda replaying the days events and all the things I could’ve done differently over and over again. I’m still trying to recover. It still feels pretty raw like it just happened yesterday. I feel so close to it still. The plethora of emotions (pain, anguish, regret, sadness, blame) can hit me at any momeny and I’m back to reliving. It’s funny the day after this most recent blow to my foundation I happened to read a bulletin outside of a local church that read “Trials are when our faith grows”. I’ve had some bright spots but I feel it’s going to take a major triumph (huge personal victory) to counter the painfully dull ones of late. I still have faith in Him and I make it a point to still find things to be grateful for and to show that gratitude by telling him so and continue to try and be a blessing to others through gesture as I don’t have much to offer anyone in a monetary sense at the moment. I lost a lot that was dear to me in the foreclosure but I have to remind myself of the ultimate gift that He has given and that which no price can be placed -my life. In the aftermath of what happened I’m moving forward which is all I can do really. The next step is looking forward to things getting better being positive and trusting that they will. I like JP’s advice especially “feel enriched with what you have.” The vision that I had for a turnout and the reality of what it now is is truly tough for me to reconcile. I’m starting from scratch and it’s daunting. I know this is long-winded and I appreciate anyone who takes time to read my testimony (I actually feel a little bit lighter now that I’ve actually written these words out). If you could send a prayer my way I would be beyond grateful.

    P.S. I love this site. I happened to stumble on it the first time a few years ago from some random click. I haven’t been on in a while. I was starting to search something else and it just popped up in the queue so I clicked and this jumped out at me immediately as it is so pertinent to my current situation. Please keep up the ‘good’ work. Thank you and all the commenters for this. It was just what I needed to read. God bless you all.