Several months after giving birth to my third child, I was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy, a form of congestive heart failure associated with pregnancy. I stayed in the hospital for ten grueling days, my heart failing twice and my prognosis unknown.
As I lay in the hospital, my husband took care of our children during the weekdays and only worked on weekends when my relatives were around to help. Even my brother from Australia flew in to help take care of my young family. Despite all my sufferings, I felt truly grateful to God for sending me the love and support of family and friends. More importantly, I felt indebted to our Lord for giving me a second chance at life.
One month after my hospital stay, we received a bill from the hospital for $40,000. Since all my energy was spent desperately trying to recover so I could take care of my family, a $40,000 bill was the last thing I needed to worry about. My heart was heavy and I was tired. I remember folding the hospital bill, slipping it under our Sacred Heart statue and trusting that God would find a way.
A week later, I called the insurance company to find out how much of the bill we had to pay for out of pocket. The insurance representative on the line reviewed our case and said that we were really only responsible for a $3,500 deductible. We were thankful to our Lord that we had insurance that would cover the rest of the balance.
Then reality set in. I remembered that my husband’s income had been drastically reduced because he had only been working on the weekends. So once again, I folded the hospital bill, slipped it under our Sacred Heart statue and surrendered everything to God.
Several days later, the insurance representative called and told us that there had been a miscalculation. Out of the $3,500 deductible, we were only responsible for $600. Our hearts were thankful to our Heavenly Father, and we realized it was a small price to pay considering the doctors and the hospital staff helped saved my life.
A couple of hours after the insurance company called, I received a phone call from my brother who had just safely landed back in Australia. He asked me how I was doing and assured me of his continued prayers. Right before we hung up, something amazing happened. My brother told me that right before he left for the airport, he had left an envelope on my prayer table. I walked to my prayer table, opened the envelope and found $600 – the exact amount we needed to pay the hospital.
Only our Heavenly Father could have orchestrated an incredible story such as this. He knew exactly how much we needed before we even knew it ourselves. Through this experience, amongst many others, our good God has taught my family time and again about the incredible power of surrendering and trusting in His love for us.
In God We Trust
The second principle in living the simple life is: Trusting in God’s providential love. But why is it so difficult for us to trust in Divine Providence? Why is it so easy to surrender all the areas of our lives to God except for the area of finances? Because trusting in the Lord requires the understanding that His divine plan is so much larger than our own. It is difficult for us because trusting requires continuing to love our Lord especially when we don’t know what the outcome of His larger plan is. When faced with any difficulty, our intellect can only find solutions based on our experiences from the past and the events of the present moment. Surrendering to God is difficult because our intelligence and reason can never see beyond today.
The good news is that our Lord is not bound by time. The good news is that He sees every circumstance of our lives in light of eternity. Proverbs 3:5 exhorts us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not. In all your ways, be mindful of him and he will make straight your paths.” In Jeremiah 17:7-8, he says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord. He is like a planted tree beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream, it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” Psalm 37 reminds us to “commit to the Lord your way; trust in Him and He will act.”
Seven Simple Steps
One of the greatest obstacles to living the simple life is placing more trust in our income and our finances than we place in God. Below are seven simple steps our family took to slowly redirect our trust away from our paychecks and to trust more fully in our Heavenly Father’s providential love for us:
2. Change our mindset about work and income
In the pamphlet How To Stop Worrying About Money (Liguori Publications), author Marilyn Gustin suggests to make a disconnect between our work and our income. Most of us are of the mindset that we work in order to receive income. We believe that our income comes from our employer or our customers. But James 1:17 says “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” According to Marylin Gustin, we can look at our income as coming directly from our Lord and see our work as simply a way of loving God back by serving His people. When this disconnect between work and income occurs, we trust that God will provide for us at all times because His love for us never fails. We learn to love our work because it becomes a means of serving God, our family and our neighbor. Income and work, which can most often be viewed as mundane, or worse yet, drudgery, has now been transformed into two beautiful aspects of our relationship with God.
3. Change our attitude when paying bills
In the same pamphlet, the author also taught us to look at paying bills as a way to share God’s treasure with other people. Instead of looking at our hard-earned money as going towards “the telephone company”, we can look at it as a chance to help feed the families of its numerous employees. Instead of looking at bills as “money going out” from our bank account, we see it as “money coming in” to help provide for the needs of other families.
4. Pray the Suspice
This beautiful prayer, written by St. Ignatius, is what I consider my “official trust and surrender prayer”. When I begin to worry about things that are above and beyond my control, I simply pray:
“Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding and my will. All that I have and cherish You have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by Your will. Your grace and Your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these Lord Jesus and I ask for nothing more. Amen.”
5. Meditate on Scripture often
Meditating on the following Scripture passages helps increase our trust in God. Psalm 4:4-6 assures us, “Know that the Lord works wonders for the faithful; the Lord hears when I call out. Tremble and do not sin; upon your beds ponder in silence. Offer fitting sacrifice and trust in the Lord.” Our absolute favorite Scripture passage on trust comes from Romans 8:32 where St. Paul says, “He who did not spare His own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give you everything else along with Him?”
6. Learn from great spiritual writers
Saint Augustine writes, “Do you desire security? Here you have it. The Lord says to thee, ‘I will never abandon thee, I will always be with thee!’ If a good man made you such a promise, you would trust him. God makes it, and do you doubt? Do you seek a support more sure than the word of God, which is infallible?” Lorenzo Scupoli, author of The Spiritual Combat, writes, “As the omnipotence of God is infinite, nothing is impossible to Him; as His wisdom is infinite, nothing is difficult to Him; as His goodness is immeasurable, He has an infinite desire for our well being. Now, should this not be enough to make us repose all our confidence in Him?” St. Francis de Sales writes, “When one puts all his care on God, and rests wholly upon Him, being careful, meanwhile, to serve Him more faithfully, God takes care of him; and the greater the confidence of such a one, the more the care of God extends over him; neither is there any danger of its failing, for God has an infinite love for those souls that repose in Him.”
7. Fast forward to the last two hours of life
This last step may sound a bit morbid, but after reading St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Preparation for Death, I have learned to embrace this beautiful practice often. If I am worrying too much about something, I fast forward to the last two hours of my life and ask myself whether what I am worrying about will truly matter shortly before I see my Savior face to face. In the last two hours of my life, chances are, whatever it is I am worrying about will be already resolved.
Simple living invites us to trust in God more fully and more deeply. Trust in God gives us true freedom because we know that if our Lord is the source of every good and perfect gift, He will faithfully provide for all our needs. Trust in God gives us true joy because we can see our work as a way to thank our Lord and serve our neighbor. Trust in God allows us to live as His children, knowing that the same Father who gave up His only Son for us will give us everything else besides.
For Further Reflection: “The confidence of the Christian soul rests in perfect abandonment to God, above and beyond every consideration of human prudence. Oh, what happiness to walk in this perfect dependence upon a Sovereign Providence!” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal
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