The neighbors behind us shared their disheartening news. “Our home is going into foreclosure,” they told my husband Patrick and me. All I could think of was this: I don’t know how they will survive this. A year later, my husband and I looked foreclosure in the eye and wondered the same thing—only we were on the other side of the world, planting a church in France.
We didn’t happen upon this financial crisis. We worked hard employing biblical standards in our spending. Other than our home, we were debt-free. One month before we left to as missionaries to France, we made one critical mistake: We trusted a man from our church who told us he’d buy our home.
Four months later before Christmas, we got a phone call from our former mortgage lender saying, “We want to know why you’re not paying your mortgage.”
“We sold our home months ago,” my husband replied. “Besides, we live in France now.”
In that conversation and ensuing investigation, we discovered the man we “sold” our home to was a conman—he created paperwork that meant we still owned the loan, but he had the title. And since we were an ocean away from fixing the dilemma, our only choice was foreclosure.
Faced with the same agony our neighbors had endured, we prayed. And worried. And hollered. For several weeks we consulted with friends back home in Texas while our church offered a ton of support. We found out that the conman was living in our house, destroying it. When we received pictures, I wept. The home had been brand new when we bought it, but now its carpets were stained with dog waste. The conman ripped out the vines we’d planted on the house to grow up the brick, but he didn’t bother to mow or weed the flowerbeds. Water-damage ruined the ceiling and there were burn marks on the countertops. Filthy could not adequately describe what once had been our home. While I pondered the pictures, I realized, truly, that our home is with Jesus, where rust and moth and conmen can’t destroy.
The man did leave eventually, thanks to our friends’ pressure to vacate, but the damage to the home and our psyche remained. All that credit we’d worked years for had suddenly been swiped away with one man’s act. Six months later when the foreclosure finalized, the wound reopened, along with worry.
Whether you’re facing financial heartache and uncertainty as a result of someone else’s decisions or your own, the feelings of despair can threaten even the most stable, loving marriages. We certainly didn’t navigate our own financial crisis perfectly, but we did emerge on the other side, marriage intact. This is how we coped.
We allowed the trial to bring our beliefs into focus.
We took this verse close to our hearts: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm50:10). Either we believed God owned the cattle on a thousand hills or we didn’t. We had the unique opportunity to see where our faith met the road of financial worry. Did we truly believe God was our provider? That He was in sovereign control? That this foreclosure did not take Him by surprise?
It took several weeks of crying, questioning and wrestling, but we both scratched our way to that elusive place of settled peace. God did own it all anyway, and He would provide in His own unique way. And we had the unique opportunity to test whether we really believed in God’s provision.
We learned that God is bigger than our mistakes and the mistakes of others.
A song we used to sing years ago filtered through me as we grappled with the man who essentially “stole” our house. It came from Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” If we believed one man’s act or our own circumstance were bigger than God, then we harbored a faulty view of faith. It was only when we meditated on the great vastness of God that we realized how silly it was to elevate our worries above His capabilities.
We also learned that we weren’t each others’ enemy in this ordeal. As a married couple, finances are a shared burden. Tackling them as allies, not foes, kept our focus on the bigness of God, not the smallness of our own abilities.
We found joy in our circumstances.
It wasn’t easy to make light of the foreclosure, particularly since we had no control over it and we were essentially helpless to prevent it, being overseas. Eventually, we discovered the Apostle Paul’s secret. From our rented home in France, secure in the love of our family, we could boast, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4: 11-12).
Michelle experienced a similar joy after she, her husband, and her son lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. As agonizing as it was to see her home, her memories, and her community decimated, she shares with others that she would not have deepened her relationship with Jesus had she not suffered that loss. Her family is a testimony of thriving and finding joy in the most devastating circumstances.
We thanked God for the work He did in our hearts.
A month into our shock, and six months before the foreclosure finalized, we thanked God for the ordeal. Why? Because God worked miracles. Not in our circumstances—they remained difficult. But in our hearts. One morning I listed my stress and complaints to God, making sure He knew exactly what I was going through. At the end of my ranting, I sensed Him asking me whether I would give our finances to Him and stop worrying.
I wrestled with His words, fighting my own need for control. Because the truth was, this financial circumstance was completely outside our control. When I finally gave everything to Him, peace replaced my fear. That lesson of relinquishing stays with me today. I simply do not fret about money like I used to. I figured, even when we tried to be good financial stewards, there was no guarantee that we could create security. Ultimately, our security had to rest in the One who made it all. If it’s placed there, we will not be moved. “Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1).
Surviving a financial crisis is within reach. Thriving through it, which seems counterintuitive, is possible. What it takes is a married couple committed to living out their beliefs, seeing God as bigger than the money monster, grasping joy when worry beckons, and thanking God for the growth He promises through the money trial. Four years post-foreclosure, Patrick and I are happily married. We’re stateside after our stint in France and are blessed beyond measure to own another home.