Survival Plan for the Human Spirit in Tough Times

Survival Plan for the Human Spirit in Tough Times


I think our family has been through enough seasons of low or no income for me to be an “authority” on how to get through a season of deprivation. Of course, planning in plenty for times of lack is always wise, but how does one keep their spirits from plummeting to a "point of no return" during these challenging seasons? How does one not sink into depression while others are continuing to go about their lives of travel and purchasing while you wonder if you’ll make it through the winter in the boots you’ve had since you got married 20 years ago or if you have enough gas to make it 5 miles?

Attitude is Everything

I think, as in any survival situation, that surviving a lack of finances can largely be a matter of attitude. During our last season of no income- the longest to date- I found my paradigms for contentment being challenged and shifting. It was hard, but it was also extremely liberating to know that doing without things I had grown accustomed to was not a matter of life and death! In fact, doing without, in the end, brought more life because I was unshackled from the insidious and slow takeover of consumerism in my life. My husband had been bringing in a comfortable wage and then was laid off. In many ways, having what I thought I needed when I wanted it - or thought I needed it- not only proved to be a deceptive source of idolatry, but it also cut me off from the bounteous ways that my spirit was enlarged through being needy. When you’re cut off from everything and everyone, things start to look differently and life becomes refreshingly uncluttered.

It is More Blessed to Give...

I have a little book by my bed in which are listed dozens of acts of kindness toward us that brings me to tears every time I read it. If we had had everything on our own, we would have missed this beauty of humanity reflecting God - others reaching out to us in our need, asking nothing in return. It’s humbling, but it’s beautiful. And it lifts the spirits like nothing else! Our goals are to be as generous as we possibly can with what the Lord provides as we go through this life. There is no better high than giving.

Which brings me to my next point...there is no better time to stretch outward than when you are stretched within. When you give out of your own need, something supernatural takes place. It was a goal of mine during this season of need to extend outwardly as much as possible even though we had our own needs. Guess what? As we took steps to do this, we never missed a bill payment or were in want. That’s the supernatural part. I like to say that you can never out-give God. And I have lived long enough and through enough desert seasons to prove it true.


Count Your Blessings

Another thing you can do is look twice at the many, many good things you have around you to enjoy: the people in your life, and the little things that you maybe often overlook. Counting blessings is a surefire antidote for feeling deprived or depressed. As a challenge, I’d say to make it a daily exercise to spend at least five minutes every morning listing to yourself (Personally, I thank God aloud.) the treasures that are around you. It won’t be enough time, if you really get into it, and before you know it - you’ll be smiling!

I have an old dish I got at a yard sale for a dollar that I eat my breakfast from every morning. It was made in 1845 and it is so helpful to think on the fact that so very many people before me had eaten from that dish, all living in different times and seasons of history and life...and when I considered how many appliances and amenities I enjoy - even in my lack- compared to a woman of 1845, it humbles me and makes me ever so grateful. (You can see my special bowl on the yogurt article!)


Live Simply

A woman was recently concluding to me that in these times, it is impossible for a family to live on one income. She did not know me well enough to know that I had never needed to work as a mom except for a couple of brief substitute teaching stints between jobs for my husband. She went on quite a while about it saying that it would take an exceptional person to be able to make it happen the way things are today, in fact, she could not imagine how it could be done.

I went home smiling, knowing that I had been so blessed to be able to do what many women couldn’t conceive as possible. But it is possible and anyone can do it given the right paradigm of expectations. My home has one piece of furniture which was bought new - our couch- which has been covered over a dozen different ways, but still serves as our main seat in our living room. Would I love a new one? Oh yes! But it doesn’t rule me. My house has been called lovely and peaceful. I decorate entirely from things given to me or found at yard sales. My clothing is never bought new - not for as long as I can remember. I can’t MAKE myself buy new clothing. It hurts. Do I wish I could look stylish and choose just what I wanted to wear? Of course! But, again, it doesn’t rule me and I have gotten many compliments - often from my husband- on my style in dressing. My rule is to never pay more than a yard sale price for anything I wear. Except shoes. I have “special” feet, so that is one area where I have recently had to carefully spend, but until a few years ago all my shoes were yard-saled, too.

My kids' idea of new clothes was what I’d bring home from yard-saling or Goodwill. (Honestly, even Goodwill is often too high-priced for me.) And they were always grateful. My daughter learned how to sew and created some very extravagant costumes and gifts that way - usually with fabric we found on sale or---you guessed it, at yard sales! We patched work jeans over and over. Everyone still smiled. It’s all in what you expect and build your joy upon. That makes all the difference.


Don’t Compare Yourself With Others

Remember, too, that it is never wise to compare your lot with another’s. Talk about instant discontent! We all have unique missions in life and we all are in training for the calling unique to us. Our lives shouldn’t look like anyone else’s! See the ways you are being enlarged by your current challenges! It will make you happy!

(Our son with some Nairobi slum children. It's where he chose to go when he got laid off. He came home penniless but overflowing.)

Keep Your Priorities Straight

And finally, purposefully, intentionally cherish the people you are surrounded by. This is the most important thing!! We never know how much time we have and taking people for granted is really borne out of a poverty mentality. When you treasure and esteem and honor the ones who do life with you, you are living like a king who chooses to surround himself with what is most valuable to him. And when my cup is half empty -very often one of those precious ones will come and fill it out of their overflow. It doesn’t get any better than that. One for all and all for One!

Love, Love, Love is More Than the Lyrics to a Beatles Song

The human spirit was designed for love. When we substitute the love of money or things or comforts for that God-designed love for people, we will surely evade joy. But when we look upon the things that are the true riches in our lives and keep everything else in perspective - there is just nothing more exhilarating or satisfying. Embrace the season! ~Carin