In the span of less than a month during the COVID-19 pandemic, I watched my 401k lose half its value. I was counting on that money for my retirement, and to see it disappear so quickly stunned me. But it made me ask myself some difficult questions:
In what, or rather, in whom do I trust? And how should I respond to this loss?
Now I know there are some people who will tell me, “Don’t worry. Trust God. He’ll give you something better.” That’s an answer I’ve often heard people tell someone who just lost their job. “The reason why you lost this job is that God has a better job for you!”
The problem with this answer is that it offers material things as the hope we should cling to in times of loss: the solution to losing money is to get more money; the reason why God allowed your home to foreclose is that he wants you to have a bigger house.
I find these answers deeply unsatisfactory—and unbiblical. It certainly doesn’t sound like something Jesus would say. So how should we feel about loss of material possessions? How should we respond? We need God’s perspective, which he gives us in his Word! We need to remember his love and goodness, which he showed us in the cross of Jesus. And, we need to treasure him above all.
Take God’s Perspective in Times of Loss
The Bible is God’s perspective on all of life, given to us out of his love. As you read the Bible, ask God for his perspective, ask him for wisdom as you wade through this time of difficulty (James 1:5), and make note of what God is teaching you. Here are five key truths and some reflection of my own from God’s Word that God has used to encourage me in my time of loss.
- God is in control.
My Redeemer owns the whole world (Psalm 24:1; Job 41:11). Everything I have is his—he has simply given it to me on loan. If he decides to take something back, then I must trust that he has a good purpose for it (Job 13:15).
- God is weaning me off the things of this earth.
Jesus taught us that our “earthly treasures” are subject to decay and ruin (Matthew 6:19). I can’t allow my heart to be subject to them. Jesus wants me to find my hope and satisfaction in him instead of in things that will pass away.
- God is giving me an eternal perspective on reality.
Why am I so concerned with, what, twenty years that I may have left on this earth? I need to concentrate on things that will last for an eternity, not a couple of decades (Philippians 3:20).
- God is reorienting my priorities.
Of course God knows my family needs to eat! But by taking away my earthly treasures, God is helping me reorient my desires toward his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). He is helping me learn to trust him to provide for me, as I pursue his goals and his kingdom.
- God is making me into the likeness and image of his Son.
The ultimate goal of my Christian life is not worldly comfort. The goal is becoming like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). If my Lord was subject to the suffering of this world, why do I think I won’t be as well (John 13:16)?
Trust God’s Love and Goodness
The above perspective and overall stability it brings in times of loss doesn’t miraculously materialize overnight. It is something that we learn over time as we read God’s Word and grow to trust him. God used Paul to teach us this in his letter to the Philippians. After roughly two decades of very hard ministry, here is what Paul wrote:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)
We find our strength and contentment in times of loss in God himself. As I continue to trust in the Lord more and more, I find that my stunned emotions during times of loss can be overshadowed by what I know to be true about God’s character: He is good. And he loves me.
In another passage where Paul writes about suffering, he says this: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 NIV).
Paul is reminding me that by God sending his Son to pay the eternal price for my sins, he has already proved himself to be good. He has already proven his love for me. Why, then, should I doubt his goodness when I suffer a temporary, earthly loss?
Trusting the Giver When You Lose His Gifts
The bottom line is this: if I’m so tied to my earthly wants and, yes, even needs, then I’m guilty of idolatry—valuing something more than God. If suffering a loss causes me to get angry with God or have doubts about his goodness, then I have given my heart more to the gifts he has given me than to the Giver. And maybe, just maybe, God stripping away what I put my hope in is his loving way of helping me hope again in him alone and find my satisfaction in him.
As I humbly submit myself to God’s will, asking for his help to submit my limited perspective for my life to his perfect plan, I learn to trust that even in times of great loss, I actually gain. Not materially, mind you, but spiritually. I grow to know God better. I learn that he’s what I always truly need. I am reminded of his goodness. And with that comes joy, not stunned anxiety or fear (James 1:2-4).
So take heart! Even in the midst of stunning loss, God is working on us for greater, eternal things. What have you lost recently? And what might God be teaching you about himself through it?