A WORLD in recession has made us starkly aware that ‘money does not grow on trees’. The ‘never-had-it-so good’ syndrome was a delusion, anyway, but whatever it was it has rapidly disappeared from the western world. It is time to take stock and get our thinking straight.

Some of us have been forced into this because we have been made redundant, or have been ‘retrenched’, as they say in some countries. Depending on how long we have been employed, we may or may not have received redundancy pay. When we are single it is somewhat easier to cope with such a situation because, at least, we do not have to bear the responsibility of supporting a wife and children. Nevertheless, there is for everyone in this condition an unwelcome sense of being unwanted, not needed and, perhaps, of injured self-esteem. It is useless to be urged to snap out of it or to shake it off. Something very real and most unpleasant has happened to us.

Some men have been known to pretend to go to work by leaving home and returning at the normal times, afraid or ashamed to tell their partners what has happened to them. Others have been so dejected as to withdraw into themselves in desperation.

Things have been made worse by the fact that hundreds of other people are in the same plight. Vacant jobs are very few and far between, and applications for them often out-number the jobs by factors of ten or hundreds. Times are tough and there is no exemption from their effects even though we are God’s children.

Facing Life Together

It is at such times that the value of facing life together becomes evident. Partnership in Christ is meant to take the strain. The strength of our bond is tested when one of us hits rough water, and there is deep satisfaction when we discover that it holds and is made even stronger.

If it has been our custom to talk freely about everything, it will come naturally to discuss life’s problems as they arise. Losing our job or suffering a spell of ill-health is something that affects both of us, and we need to be open and supportive of one another. The sufferer may feel resentful or disconsolate, but there is no need for both of us to be ‘down’, otherwise we double the problem. Naturally, we have sympathy for each other, but “we that are strong must bear the infirmities of those that are weak”. A brother is born for adversity, says the proverb (24:10), and it must be the same with true love. “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer …” were amongst the vows we made or at least implied on our wedding day.

If it has been our constant custom to read the Word of God and to pray together, these things will prove a bulwark in times of trial. God has not promised to keep us free from trouble but He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, nor will He fail to provide us with the essentials for life.

Two Wage Earners

Increasingly both partners in a marriage have jobs. Theoretically, this should be of help when one is made redundant or is otherwise unable to work, and this is often the case. But, lamentably, sometimes this is not so. Instead of using the second wage as a useful support in providing some of the extra things we may need when we are embarking on married life, it comes to light in hard times that the two wages have been regarded as essential for the standard of living we have chosen to adopt. In other words, we have come to rely on the double income as the normal input into the family budget.

In some cases this has been unavoidable, but far too often couples have unnecessarily overstretched themselves, with disastrous results when adversity arises. What is worse, alongside the spend-to-the-limit habit, it has become the custom to use credit as a way of life, that is, constantly to spend money we have not got. Seductive advertising and an advice from the credit card company that we have been awarded a certain level of credit may have caused us to believe that the money is really ours to use.

When the crash comes, it can be very destructive. Homes are lost, debts are ‘collected’ and the cruel truth becomes clear, namely, that ‘nothing is for free’.

Good domestic money management in normal times might have made the impact far less hard. A little forethought is better than weeping hindsight.

Getting it Right

It is better to do a little simple book-keeping when we start married life. Sit down together and write down the weekly income and outgoings. Decide which things are unavoidable expenses and which, if need be can be dispensed with. This is not a matter simply for the husband to shoulder. There is something demeaning for a wife to be allocated housekeeping money but not to be trusted with a sight of, and therefore some of the responsibility for, the whole picture of home finances.

Some partners are niggardly and some are spend-thrift; some resent spending anything at all, except on themselves; others are too free and easy with money, and look hurt when it becomes evident at the end of the week or month that damage has been done to household finances and, perhaps, happiness.

We need to be mutually responsible and to know what we have coming in and how it is to be spent and saved. Common sense makes it plain that we cannot spend what we have not got and that we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. Major items of expenditure and how we are going to pay for them have to be worked out together. It is fool-hardy to live above our means or to chase the living standards of others whose income exceeds our own. Happiness does not come from things but from a state of mind and a proper way of life. Indulgence and extravagance undermine stability.

It is essential therefore to decide in the cold light of day, and not in the glare of lights or under the influence of alluring advertisements whether or not we are going to have credit cards and, if so, how many and how we are going to control our use of them. If we can clear our credit balance at the end of each month, we are in a safe haven; if we cannot, we are deliberately paying 20-35% more for goods than we need to and are loading ourselves with debt that we could not meet if the tide turned against us.

Love of money and the love of things for their own sakes are the root of great evils. Covetousness is a sin as great as idolatry. Learning to be content by living within our means and not resenting it brings great peace of mind. “Owe no man anything” is the Bible command which we must do our best to live by in an age that thinks living by credit is clever.

Read the book of Proverbs seriously and you will receive advice that is beyond anything that man can provide. The whole way of everyday living is dealt with, and the consequences of ignoring God’s counsel are spelt out.

When it Goes Wrong

When this happens, whether by our own folly, or by fell circumstances, we need prayerfully to face the facts. Work in harmony, trying not to vent your feelings by allocating blame to your partner, and seek to benefit from past mistakes. Extortionate money lenders are no answer to problems of debt. Get the facts down on paper, seek advice from those who can see clearly in such times and take all the steps that are possible to remedy the situations. If we have lost our job, then we have to set about looking for work, writing applica- tions and CVs and persisting at it. We may have to take a job of a different or lower kind than we had before. If we have foolishly or seriously over-spent, there will be consequences and we have to accept them, at the same time doing all we can to contain and to ease the situation.

You will need someone to talk to—not necessarily in solving the problems, but to provide a shoulder to cry on, an arm to strengthen, joint prayers to support and the love to trust. Another young couple or, it may be, an older one can help tremendously. It is wise foresight to cultivate such a friendship before troubles come.

Remember, our money is not ours: it is a loan from the Lord God. We have been bought with a price.