Do not fret because of evildoers. Be not envious toward wrongdoers, for they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the LORD and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in HIm and He will do it…Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off. But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land…The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD. He is their strength in time of trouble and the LORD helps them and delivers them. He delivers them from the wicked and saves them because they take refuge in Him.
Psalm 37:1-5, 7-9, 39-40
Living through the reality of poverty is absolutely NOTHING like the media would have you believe. However, many take the characterization of the character of the poor as gospel and make assumptions, rules and “policies” to protect themselves against the touted systemic abuses. I will not contest that there are cases that back up the popular stereotypes. HOWEVER, such ingrained prejudices do a great disservice to the invisible working poor population who fall into a gray area where they are denied services because they make “too much” and/or are not among the neediest in a system overloaded with need but lacking funds and resources to help all comers. Never mind that we do not have sufficient income to actually cover basic minimal living expenses, even with so-called “low-income” housing options – it’s too much for some impersonal government formula.
Community-based programs are a mixed bag — While it’s true that some have individuals with more heart than your average government office, even those that want to help, lack the resources and organizational support to actually respond flexibly according to a family’s actual needs, not a broad stroke one size fits all programmatic short-term bandaid. Their hands are tied because policies and procedures are written and enforced based on the few rotten apples that have spoiled the barrel for honest, hardworking families who have fallen on hard times but actually are working on a plan to get off the need for public assistance rather than seeing it as a “career opportunity.”
The problem is multifold and stems from faulty assumptions fed by the press coverage of the worst case scenarios: (1) If you are poor and having trouble supporting your family, it must stem from lack of character, basic laziness, drugs, alcohol, lack of ambition, entitlement mentality, etc.; (2) You don’t have the mental and emotional capacity to participate in your own help and need someone else to tell you what to do and enforce it as if you are a criminal. (3) If you dare to think you can contribute to your own help, you are ungrateful, disrespectful and full of pride; and yet, contradictorily (4) If you don’t try to participate in your own help, you only prove the validity of #1-2.
The irony is that for any family in this situation, the goal is or should be to work toward self-sufficiency, and for those in the gray area, we are taking deliberate and considered steps in that direction, such as renter’s education, financial management training, debt reduction plans, career development and enhancement plans, working overtime or multiple jobs, etc. while keeping up with our kids’ activities and schoolwork, being good parents and doing housework. We do everything we are supposed to do. We respect rules and authority and do everything in our power to move our families forward toward the goal of financial independence. Yet, the fact that we are responsible, honest, hardworking and resourceful almost seems to work against us in accessing what resources are out there because while the public outcry about systemic abuses runs rampant, the system actually rewards those who do nothing to help themselves and enables that dysfunctional behavior, contributing to and feeding the problem. Those that have the mentality that assistance is a temporary, interim solution and are actually making strides in participating in helping themselves to the best of their ability even if they do not have enough to do it all just yet, are left to fend for themselves, making it all the more difficult to actually pull themselves out and reach the goal of self-sufficiency.
However, most of these problems have been years in the making and are not going to be resolved in a few weeks or a few months. Yet, all “program” solutions are designed for the short-term and the assumption made that we should be able to pull ourselves out in a short period of time. If we can’t, the reasoning goes that we must be doing something wrong and “prove” our lack of sense and intelligence to help ourselves and the need for us to live under someone else’s thumb. It’s like having a newborn baby or losing weight –everyone has their opinion and surefire “only way” to “do it right.” Well-meaning people who have no clue what it means or feels like to live this reality nonetheless feel free to offer unsolicited advice, assuming that we must have missed something, failed to apply in the right places, put enough pressure on the right people to help us. Surely the “programs” out there would be the magic solution. They do not realize or even truly comprehend even when told that for all the PR about the wonderful work done by the few assistance organizations out there, they only scratch the tip of the iceberg in relation to the depth of the problem.
A few families out of thousands in need actually qualify to enter these programs. Not only that, but many so-called assistance resources are only referral agencies to the actual assistance and do not provide the assistance themselves. But they all point to the same resources — so repeatedly being told to contact the same places, programs and people gets old really fast. After a while, you’ve tapped out everything there is to apply for and can only wait to get to the top of a months or years long waiting list, which in reality, more likely than not, will never happen. But no one knows what to say when you say you have already tried everything they have suggested and you get the feeling that many don’t really believe you have actually tried as hard as you say you have because if you had, you would already have a solution. So you keep getting pressured to try things you have already tried because no one knows what else to say.
Food help programs are so abundantly overdone that everywhere you go, every assistance program wants to help with that. On one hand, that is all fine and good for the families that actually have that need. The problem is they insist on helping with food, even when you already have food assistance in place. So they are duplicating the assistance you already get, while not addressing your real needs. When I have tried to tell them, thank you but I just need the use of the kitchen, I can cook for my own family – I have been told I can’t do that because we need to show gratitude to the volunteers whose heart it is to help us and bless us in this way. OK–it’s not that I don’t appreciate their intention but after a while, always getting help with the one thing we do not really need help with – or at least not anymore help than we were already getting – gets really old.
While people are sure they have the unthought of thought that is going to be the magic answer to everything and change everything around for us overnight, I know the reality of how hard I have tried to motivate the agencies to help us , how hard I am working even to the point of exhaustion, how many things I am doing right even when people are sure I must be doing something, if not everything all wrong. I know how hard I have prayed, clung to my integrity, character and honesty, done right in the sight of God — and yet, I still have to listen to people who seem to think that because the situation isn’t improving faster that I am lacking in fundamental sense and in desperate need of their “guidance.” It is not that I am unteachable or prideful or disrespectful or ungrateful to those that have helped us….although I have been accused of all of the above and called “ridiculous” and “pathetic.”
But only GOD knows what He is calling me to do and how He is asking me to work through this, even when His way doesn’t seem to follow any human logic. Some people seem to be so convinced that they know better than I do what GOD is calling me to do and get downright nasty when I won’t accede to their definition of who I am, clinging instead to my identity as the DAUGHTER OF THE ONE TRUE KING! I still know who GOD says I am regardless of our situation. Who I am in GOD does not change no matter what the balance in my bank account says. I cannot play audio recordings of GOD’s voice directing my way to prove that I actually do know what GOD is telling me to do but I do know the difference between His voice and my voice and the enemy’s voice.
I have spent too much time in my life chasing after things that seem like “the only way” but are not the GOD way. I will no longer compromise and waste my energy running after solutions in which GOD has clearly told me no, no matter how much it seems logical to well-meaning people. I am confident in my GOD to bring me and my kids through this fiery trial. I am open to godly counsel but I will not blindly capitulate my brainpower and my will to every fickle, if well-meaning opinion of man. I will not explain and justify my course of action for the comfort of every doubter and bid for control that comes along. I will not just lay down and take the abuse of those who assume that my situation means I must abdicate any right to think and hear GOD for myself. I am absolutely convinced that GOD is smarter and wiser than I am — and you too! I will be better off in the long run going with His plan, no matter what contrary opinions get tossed at me like poison darts. As my pastor says, “GOD settles all accounts.”
I know where my Promised Land is and that He will make a way for me and my kids to dwell here as He has promised. My job as the verse above says is to “Trust in the LORD and do good…dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” I will not dwell on vengeance and vindication from my critics….that is GOD’s job and He can cut off what needs to be cut off. But my salvation and that of my children is from the LORD.
You are our strength through our troubles and You are delivering us even now, even though we cannot understand how. May we seek refuge only in You and be saved and delivered by Your hand because of our faithfulness and not abandon Your way to appease the conscience and put-on “feelings” of others who accuse us of “offense” only as a means of manipulation and control. Let me not fret nor resort to evil or compromise with the ways of the world and the wicked schemes of man that parade as wisdom but lead only to heartache and more destruction. Show us the way to go to the home You have promised, holding fast to our identities in You and our character, honesty and integrity under Your hand. Let not the schemes of man to drag us down to their levels of petty contention succeed. Frustrate the intentions of those who seek to humiliate and control rather than support what You are doing in our lives. Be the only Source of our protection, wisdom, strength and guidance and grant us obedient hearts susceptible to Your lead alone. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12