Let’s start this off with a disclaimer: I’m not the world’s most religious woman.
I believe in God – the idea that we have a divine creator. I believe in destiny. I believe there’s a plan for every single one of us, even if we can’t see it yet.
I believe in the goodness of people; I believe in hope. I believe that when you treat others well, those good deeds come back tenfold. But that’s where the order of the universe ends in my book.
You see, I also believe in grit. I believe the best way to improve your life is through hard work and perseverance. I believe that making smart decisions can make you happier, healthier, and yes, wealthier. I also believe that poor decisions can leave you broke, unhealthy, and miserable.
I know from experience that you can sink or swim, fail or succeed, shrivel or thrive based largely on your own efforts. And I’m fairly certain that God can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.
So, I humbly ask a favor: Stop asking God to fix your financial problems.
The longer you wait to help yourself, the worse off you’ll be.
Why God Alone Won’t Fix Your Financial Woes
If that comes off as harsh, I totally get it. But please believe me when I say my intentions are pure.
As someone who writes about personal finance for a living, I’ve experienced a lifetime of teachable moments that led me to believe this needs to be said.
When you’re struggling with money, it’s easy to place your salvation in the hands of someone else – in this case, God. And no one should criticize your belief in a savior or your need to pray for help.
But it could be a problem if you have so much faith that you never take steps to help yourself.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen the exact scenario I’m describing damage lives for years. Plenty of friends and acquaintances suffer unnecessarily with credit card debt, budgeting issues, and income constraints. Many times, I have heard friends say they’ll just give their problems to God.
Praying for help is a beautiful gesture, but it’s not always enough. There are times in our lives where, to improve our lot, we have no choice but to back up our prayers up with action.
If you’re spending more money than you earn each month, you can’t expect a higher power to make the math work out. It’s possible you’ll have a revelation, receive an inheritance, or have your financial issues solved some other way — but chances are, the most surefire way to fix your spending habits is to change yourself.
But, you know what? Most people don’t want to hear that advice. Taking a critical look at your life and your own habits is hard. It’s a lot easier to ask God for help than to admit that you’re part of the problem. After all, that realization might mean changing your life in some uncomfortable ways.
We’ve all witnessed someone refusing to accept common sense advice that could improve their life. How many times have you heard someone say something like…
“I know I can’t afford this car payment, but I love having a nice new car! I’ll figure it out.”
“I don’t have the money for rent this month, so I might as well go shopping. God will sort it out.”
“My life is a mess, but I’m a good person. I know I’ll get what I’m due one of these days.”
Or, my personal favorite:
“This is all part of God’s plan for me. I have no power over my own life.”
That last one is probably the worst, mostly because people who believe they have no power over their lives have no incentive to make better decisions.
An acquaintance of mine is a perfect example of how damaging this type of thinking can be. Her financial life is in shambles, yet she insists it’s all part of a master plan. Between credit card bills, student loans, and poor spending habits, her family may never own a home. But she also admits to spending more money than they have, mostly because she doesn’t want her kids to “go without.” Recently, she charged an entire family vacation to her credit card without having any way to pay it off.
Her solution? She’s going to pray for one, because she doesn’t have one.
But the overdue bills keep coming, along with the problems they create. She could take steps to curb the family’s spending, she says, but she isn’t quite ready to sacrifice yet. And she insists that God is preparing to do amazing things in her life – if only she can wait long enough.
I’m not picking on this wonderful lady. I just wish she would stop using her faith in God as an excuse to sprint toward self-destruction. And I hate the fact that her situation might get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
Pray for Help, But Also Do This
It’s often said that, “God helps those who help themselves.” This isn’t to say that religion can’t be a catalyst for good things in your life. Instead, this phrase explains the painful truth that we often have to work for what we want.
If you really want a better life, you have to act. Realizing your spending habits may be part of the problem takes guts, but that’s only half the battle. Once you gain the courage to face your problems head-on, here are some steps to take:
- If you’re struggling with poor spending habits, start tracking your spending from the previous month. A lot of times, seeing where your money is going in stark black and white is the best way to cultivate an attitude of change.
- If you’re drowning in debt, explore the concept of budgeting to find new ways to pay off your outstanding bills – once and for all.
- If you’re spending more than you earn, stop. Cut your spending hard – or quit spending money altogether – until you can find a balance between “needs” and “wants.”
- If you can’t stop justifying over-the-top splurges, stop and take a long look in the mirror. Ask yourself what your family really deserves. Is it a lifetime of debt and “stuff?”
No matter what you do, stop asking God to fix everything while you quietly destroy yourself from within. Pray for self-discipline, not a money miracle. Stop burying your head in the sand while your problems get worse with each passing year. Demand to take back your power, and figure out what it will take to improve your life.
Once you stop expecting God to fix your finances and start taking steps to improve them yourself, amazing things can happen. But it has to start with you. It always has, and it always will.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .