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Live Within Your Blessings

Paul Waaraniemi | The Voice of Zion March 2022 --

Can we have a rich life, even on a limited income or modest means? It may look daunting to plan a living arrangement on a fixed or modest income, but it’s good to remember that throughout life, what we have has been given by God. It has been our experience that the main ingredient to both getting by and enjoying life is to live within your blessings.

It must be acknowledged that it is a common trial of elders and those reaching retirement – and others too – to wonder whether I will have enough to live on. We may even be very worried about expensive late-life care. Financial planning firms and advisors, though a valuable resource, are good at sowing seeds of doubt: “Don’t run out of money before you run out of time.” Additionally, it’s natural to be concerned about saving, planning, and budgeting for retirement, healthcare coverage, housing, paying down mortgage, and so forth. Nevertheless, even after careful planning and saving, we may face situations where it’s clear that God decides our portion and path in a different direction. How do we deal with that?

First, we need to truly heed what God’s Word says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:6–8). We can be content with affordable dwellings, economical cars, lower-cost clothes and no-cost pastimes. Even modest possessions ably serve our needs, and we may well find that less is often more – less worry and more simple enjoyment. To manage within our comfort zone, it’s important to view with gratitude what we’ve been given as a blessing and not compare our situation and belongings to others’ possessions. Envy and fulfilling material desires can deprive us of joy, drive us to impulsive purchases and even into debt. Our experience has been that it’s good to be happy with our own lifestyle and not look at the neighbor’s new boat.

Instead, it’s a joy to realize that “the best things in life are free” – or, we might add, not necessarily expensive. Among the most pleasurable gifts are people and experiences – services of God’s Word, fellowship, and the gatherings of believers give social enjoyment, but more importantly spiritual sustenance, for we cannot “live by bread alone” (Matt. 4:4).

Spending leisure time with family and friends is also one of the great blessings of life. Going to see near ones or hosting them in our homes are precious, memory-making activities. Car travel, going to services, visiting and camping are all quite affordable, interesting, and enjoyable. Travel doesn’t have to be far-flung, exotic, and costly. In today’s world of rapid communication, we can also maintain precious friendships across the miles by phone, mail or email, messaging and video calls. Though we didn’t get cards sent out this past Christmas season, we sure enjoyed receiving them (and promise to send cards again soon). Closeness and fellowship do not cost much, but they sure pay dividends.

Other things that enrich life and give pleasure but aren’t costly are art, photography, song, music, reading, observing nature, walking, biking, swimming, fishing, cooking, baking, gardening, even writing. It is also both challenging and fun to bargain shop. Thrift stores are double-blessings. We’ve discovered that you can find much of what you need affordably in secondhand stores, and it feels good that useful items are finding extended life, rather than being sent to the landfill. While material things are not enduring, they really should last longer and see more use than is typical in today’s throw-away culture.

We may also feel cultural pressure to have bigger and higher-end housing, cars, clothes, and consumer goods, but those of us on fixed incomes find it’s good to tailor lifestyle to income. Financial pressure robs peace of mind. Housing options exist in our communities that are affordable and comfortable. We found an affordable 55-plus RV and mobile home community in Arizona where we have enjoyed spending about half of the year. At first, we were the only residents here from our LLC congregations; now this year we have the company of eight other believing couples. This has provided precious fellowship, mutual support and ride-sharing. It has been nice to escape cold northern climes and be warmed by the love and services of the Arizona congregations and the Southwestern sunshine.

After five years of retirement, we realize that we can trust that God provides. We have lacked for nothing and have often discussed how those out-of-budget items could never add real enrichment. It’s good to know that God gives what we need both temporally and spiritually. While scripture doesn’t speak of temporal poverty in the quote, “to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22), it is comforting for us to know that in God’s kingdom, even amid our weaknesses, doubting, and human tendency to seek after and worry about earthly treasures, we can hear and believe the gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and blood. A song of Zion also asks a question that brings us to the crux of this writing endeavor: “Believe on the Lord in His kingdom and lay up your treasure in heaven – then how shall you ever be poor?” (SHZ 489:2).

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