How I Overcame The Fear of Running Out of Money

J.J. Peterson

For the last two years I chose to not take a full-time job. I wanted to explore, rebuild relationships, allow myself space to be authentic and ask risky questions without fear of being fired.

Photo Credit: iulia Pironea, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: iulia Pironea, Creative Commons

As I come to a close of this season, I am finding fear creeping up.

I’m running out of money and out of time to find a job. As I write this, I do not have any real prospects. I know I won’t end up on the streets, but the idea of being a burden to those around me is not only difficult to think about, but brings on unnecessary feelings of shame.

  • Did I waste my time?
  • Did I squander things too quickly and foolishly?
  • Will people judge me for the choices I made?

I’ve realized that as I sense the shrinking of my bank account and the shortness of my open calendar, I am feeling a sense of doom and fear that I haven’t felt in a long time. I’m spending less money on things, but even more than that, I think about how little money I have left all the time. I am not planning any more big trips and even feel guilty about the ones I’m taking because I know just how little time I have left to make something happen before I run out of money.

The fact that I have little money and little time left dominates my thinking right now.

In reality, I will be fine. I can’t be unwise with things, but I have plenty for today. But that doesn’t do much to allay my fears. Maybe you’ve felt like this before—that no matter how many times you make it from day to day, you still feel afraid of running out.

You never feel like you have “enough” money.

This is what I’ve learned to call a Poverty Mentality: putting myself into survival mode before it is even necessary.

This mentality has spilled over into other areas of life.

A poverty mentality scavenges and hoards, looking for every possible thing to grab hold of.

My roommate described to me recently a situation with a little adopted Russian girl she had in her first grade classroom. She noticed that her classroom had started to smell worse by the day. With very little detective work, thanks to the fruit flies buzzing, she saw that this little Russian girl had been storing food in her desk for weeks. Her desk was full of rotten bananas, half eaten sandwiches, moldy cheese and more.

She had come from an orphanage where they didn’t get enough food, so with her new found abundance, she was afraid that the kitchen would dry up and so she needed to store for a rainy day.

She didn’t realize her new reality was actually filled with an overflowing abundance.

She could have been giving away the extra food the whole time or eating til her heart’s content, but instead she was holding back, out of fear.

How many of us do this?

And yet, when we hoard things, they go sour.

If I don’t feel like I am getting enough food, I will not only focus on getting food, but when I do, I will see it as precious and must either eat it quickly or hide it for later. Sharing is not an option.

If I feel like I don’t have enough time, then not only am I always trying to explain to people why I don’t have enough time, but giving any extra moments away is out of the question. When I live in a poverty mentality, it puts me in survival mode.

The problem is, this doesn’t just impact my boxes of time and money.

When I am fearful of not having enough time and money, I start to become fearful of not having enough of other things as well. I start to feel like maybe I don’t have enough love. Then what happens is I start hording love. I look for it wherever I can, even if it in unhealthy ways, because even a little love is better than none.

I seek out relationships where I can get something or that make me feel special.

I live out of my poverty instead of my abundance.

Beyond the fact that I look for love in all the wrong places, I feel like I have a scarcity of love, which means I can’t give it out. If I give out love, then there won’t be enough for me. Plus, I may not feel like I have any to give anyway.

It gets very simple.

I can’t text a friend to have a good week because I’m not sure they will text me back. Somehow if I give of myself and get nothing in return, then I will be more empty than I was before. If they have more love than me, then somehow I am deficient. It can get so bad that I can’t be happy for other people when they find love or adulation because I am too busy focusing on my own lack of it.

Jealousy overtakes me.

So I hoard my love and generosity so I don’t feel worse than before. The problem is, I have an abundance of love, not only from those around me, but an unending supply of love from a God who loves me.

If I can grasp that fact, that I am loved beyond measure and that I will never run out of that love, I can stop living out of a poverty mentality and live in my reality of abundance.

I bet that is why Paul said to his friends in Ephesus:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19.

I hope you live out of the abundance of love you’ve been given today.

J.J. Peterson

J.J. Peterson

J.J. Peterson is a speaker, author and consultant who helps people understand the story of God and the role they play in that story. He has studied CS Lewis in Oxford, debated theology with film makers at the Sundance Film Festival, directed a documentary, had small parts in various television shows and film, but his favorite thing is being called Uncle J.J. He currently splits his time between Los Angeles and New York. Check out his website at youaregoingtobeok.com. For regular updates, you can follow him on Twitter (@jjpeterson75)

  • JJ— This was amazing! As someone who grew up with very little money, I was operating from a place of scarcity. Over the last 1.5 years, I’ve been intentionally working on my own abundance mindset. What a shift it has been. I loved this article, because it goes so much deeper than money, and caused me to look at what I’ve been hoarding, and how I’ve allowed things to go sour. It was a wake up call, and an opportunity to evaluate.

    Thank you for sharing, but thank you for reminding us all that we are meant to live in abundance in every sense of the word! 🙂

  • Jeff Davison

    Some time ago I had opportunity to read thru the Scriptures looking for what it Actually said about who God is (as opposed to the Angry God I was raised with). One of the Big themes I discovered was exactly this, JJ. Look at the story of the Manna in the wilderness. If they hoarded, it went bad (except on Fridays, because they weren’t to gather it on the Sabbath). Clearly God was trying to establish something, as if he was saying, “I want you to trust me. Live in this day, and trust that I will show up again tomorrow.” The message is all thru the Bible. And Jesus says it explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount: “Put my rule first, and all the rest will fall into place.” (Matt 6:33) The challenge then became: OK, I say I follow Jesus. But WILL I? Big gulp, and leap. The beauty is I have discovered it Works!! And my addiction to hoarding love, time, things, almost seems to evaporate. It is beautiful.

  • Anrie Smith

    O, my goodness JJ.. it felt like I was reading the story of my life at present. At the moment it is as if I find myself in the desert, waiting for an answer on what now? I also only have a short supply of money and time left. I (eventually) left my job September last year, after God indicated so many times before then that it was time to go. I so understand the fear, uncertainty and anxiety of being in that place with no real prospects. The answers that I have been getting this week from a blog that I follow as well as “randomly” from family & friends… Matt. 6:19-33; Isaiah 55; Ps. 27 & 28; Rev. 22:17; Heb. 13:5-6. Also scripture about Moses, Joshua etc. Perhaps I should wait confidently…

  • Mallory Pickering

    This is exactly where I am on so many levels. I wept. Thank you, J.J.

  • Gerri Garrick

    This is fantastic ! Gives new meaning to ” I came so that you may have life more abundantly” too. I think many of us took that to mean God wants us to HAVE an abundance of material things or riches even if only to give more away, but this has me thinking that perhaps He meant that He wants us to always live with this abundance mentality whether we are flourishing materially or lacking, trusting Him more and more as we fall into His ginormous overflowing Vat of abundant love. Awesome stuff!

  • Michelle Watt

    Two years ago I was in a thrift store. God had a good gift there for me. A book. “George Mueller of Bristol.” A man, whose life story is FULL of God’s miraculous provision. He led orphanages in the 1800s, financially and entirely, by faith. One morning, there was no money and no food. He sat the children at the table and proceeded to thank God for breakfast. Food UNSEEN. Such faith! Then, a knock on the door. God had awakened a baker at 2am to prepare them breakfast! And minutes later, there was another knock. The milkman’s cart broke in front of their home! “Could he give the milk to the children so he might go and have his cart fixed?” God provides! He does this for His children. We may come to His table penniless, but we are never poor. We are His family. He loves us. On the other side of His doors are healthy things to eat. There is plenty. And I remind myself it’s exactly how Jesus sent forth His disciples into the world. Penniless, but not poor. Never poor. Full of power, authority, and love. (Luke 9) That the world would know He was and is our daily bread. Him. Thank you for sharing, JJ. I have to remind myself daily I am not poor. We have such a good brother in Jesus. And a good Father. 🙂

    • Thanks for the rec, Michelle. I went and got myself a copy! I need the reminder that God does work that way 🙂

      • Michelle Watt

        Sweet one! Daddy is going to surprise you! He loves to work this way. He loves building trust with His children. He will show up for you. Just wait and see. 🙂

  • Derek Hoiem

    Wow. This is some of the most hard rock truth I have seen in a long time. Paul had everything. He had an education, he had a career, he had money and probably as much of it as he wanted. But God got a hold of him, and he flushed that all down the toilet. He was in prison, shipwrecked, beaten, chased out of town, stoned and left for dead. Yet, still he writes this verse above that you quote, Eph 3:17-19. I often reflect on how Paul felt when he was in prison chained to a wall thinking he had it all. But he did. Because joy cannot be stolen. The joy that comes from God knowing we are loved as individuals, and as the human race, leads to forgiveness and abundance. Well spoken JJ. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.

  • Jule B

    Interesting blog today … my husband and I just re-located to Kona, HI to work with YWAM and launch in to what we believe Creator is directing us .. we have a bit of savings to live on for a short season … my husband is prime with trusting God for all he needs… he has lived as a missionary the past 4 years trusting God for everything … me, I’ve lived ‘safe’ of sorts; job, room to rent [minimalist] self-sufficient so as to not be a burden on anyone … now, everything you shared in your article is what visits my brain … I know demolishing this poverty mentality is imperative to launch into what Creator has for us … HE is my Source .. from within to without …. thanks for sharing!

  • In 2012-2015, I had the chance to experience life reliant on God 100%, and he came through for me each time. He even met my needs down to the specific details: I once wished for a bottle of moisturiser that smelled nice and felt dry on my skin. Back then, I was so short of money that I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a $10 bottle of moisturiser! Still, I didn’t ask God for it. In fact, I didn’t even tell anyone about that secret desire. It was something I mumbled under my breath, but God took notice.

    Guess what appeared under the Christmas tree two weeks later? A Moisturiser that smelled nice and felt dry on my skin – that was written on the bottle in case I didn’t get it! How can you explain such things? Nothing but God.

    Yet, I still have a hard time getting out of the poverty mindset. i keep thinking that one day he’s going to stop providing for me. I’m not sure why I believe that, but it’s pretty strong!