Financial Stress Test:
A financial stress test lets an individual, business, or institution simulate an economic crisis under a variety of circumstances. My suggestion is if you are considering improving your spiritual foundation – conducting a financial stress test of your finances with “eyes wide open” is an excellent place to start. The details of your earnings, spending habits, planning, and overall financial wellness will be insightful for anyone seeking spiritual transcendence – regardless of overall financial wealth. It is hard to be there for God or others when your finances are in disarray or distress. “If your struggling with Money, Read this” article from NPR or listen to the 17-minute podcast.
Or perhaps these other resources may be helpful as well. How Exactly Do You Stress-Test Your Financial Plan? This Kiplinger article explains the basics for both everyday living (budget, emergency fund, and what to do with cash liquidity) and portfolio management. This is not the article to read for the do-it-yourself (DIY) guy. It provides just enough information to recommend you get a financial planner! Perhaps that is best. Would you pass a financial stress test today? What is in your emergency fund today? What is your debt to income ratio? Do you know this without having to look now? More than half of us do not keep a budget or know how much we spend! I strongly suggest you start here – with an honest appraisal of where you are now. Most Americans reach financial safety by small victories accruing overtime over the long haul. Start or revisit your financial plan today! My suggestion is to find a way to budget and track your money first in a manner that you can maintain over time – whether by an app, an excel sheet, a fancy tool (Quicken), or simply pen and paper!
I am putting money here ahead of Spiritual practice for a reason:
Matthew Chapter 6 has much to say about money, including 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These biblical verses almost seem to say, do not worry about tomorrow or money! That is not the case.
Spiritual Stress Test and Financial Stress Test Relationship:
A financial stress test lets an individual, business, or institution simulate an economic crisis under a variety of circumstances. My suggestion is if you are considering improving your spiritual foundation – conducting a financial stress test of your finances with “eyes wide open” is an excellent place to start.
The chapter teaches daily life management and setting priorities – not avoiding fiscal or other responsibilities. It concludes with 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
If we handle your priorities today and give the rest to God, we will be prepared to handle both adversity and prosperity (in whatever form) that may come our way.
Handling money and finances by being aware of every dollar’s intrinsic value and putting it to work aligned with your priorities in life will feed your spiritual soul if done correctly. Look at where you spend your money now – does it bring you closer to peaceful living and spiritual harmony or farther away? Does it support your financial stability today and prepare for tomorrow or create instability? Does it help others? Know yourself financially, and you may well be on the way to greater awareness of your spiritual wellness. Money remains a top stressor in American life.
As an anecdotal point, one study published in 2020 entitled “Worldview Under Stress: Preliminary Findings on Cardiovascular and Cortisol Stress Responses Predicted by Secualrity, Religoisty, Spirituality, and Existential Search found that “Contrary to our expectation, self-identification as atheist was not associated with an advantage in dealing with social stress. Atheists’ stress responses were substantially higher than those shown by self-identified religious participants. Self-ascribed atheism may (theoretically) suggest an orientating worldview, but it does not appear to be a predictor of healthy stress regulation.” In essence, your spiritual health could affect your ability to handle stress physiologically, as evidenced by this study.
Before going any further, let me make a personal claim – I do not believe a strong faith will guarantee prosperity! I believe our faith can sustain us in strength, hope, and dignity in times of prosperity or great poverty. Both prosperity and poverty can wreak havoc with our spiritual or moral vision of how we should live our lives. P.S. some very fine people and spirituality happen in prosperity churches in spite of a disproportionate amount of energy being “spent” on wealth acquirement – this claim is not directed at Joel Olsteen or any church for that matter.
Spiritual Stress Test:
There is a lot out there on the financial stress test. Not so much on Spiritual Stress Test. Who wants to do that at all. Life presents enough spiritual crisis every day! I fear we have become numb to a spiritual crisis in the face of commonplace human misery: poverty, hatred, war, violence, hatred, and other human conditions that devalue life. If we genuinely conducted a spiritual stress test, we
would, in all likelihood, come up in the Red. We also may be afraid that taking a self-assessment may call for more spiritual activity – where would we find the time and would not take us away from our worldly responsibilities? To the contrary, many believe and find it deepens our involvement with the world and the people around us.
There are many attempts to clinicalize spiritual assessments in the mental health field to tap into patients’ spiritual strengths as part of recovery. Borrowing from the International Journal of Palliative Care, whose discipline routinely works with the spiritual needs of patients at the end of life or while dealing with uncontrolled chronic medical illnesses, one might check out the “Hope” tool. The American Family Physician offers a review of several tools in this article called “The Spiritual Assessment” by the American Family Physician Journal, including the Hope tool in a modified form:
H: What are your sources of hope, strength, comfort, and peace? What do you hold on to during difficult times?
O: Are you part of a religious or spiritual community? Does it help you? How?
P: Do you have personal spiritual beliefs? What aspects of your personal and spiritual beliefs do you find most helpful?
E: Does your current situation affect your ability to do the things that usually help you spiritually?
Adapted with permission from Anandarajah G, Hight E. Spirituality and medical practice: using the HOPE questions as a practical tool for spiritual assessment. Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(1):87.
The medical field has recognized spirituality is a vital source of patient care during times of medical crisis. I do not want to be searching for spiritual answers when amid a crisis. Like knowing my financial picture – I want to know where I stand spiritually daily and be aware of how my actions and thoughts align with my spirituality all the time. You can do this on your own today or seek out a spiritual advisor that you trust.
Yet our spirituality or prayer life is not much better than how we handle finances: “A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 found that 45% of Americans – and a majority of Christians (55%) – say they rely a lot on prayer and personal religious reflection when making major life decisions. The same survey found that 63% of Christians in the U.S. say praying regularly is an essential part of their Christian identity.”
How did I get here to this moment, reflecting on spirituality and financial stress testing? I woke up this morning not wanting to read spiritual material or pray and ask my wife to join me to start doing taxes. Both sentiments are a form of “sloth” or spiritual and financial laziness in today’s terms. I thought about blogging and felt empty there too. I turned to the live cam at Lourdes and sipped my coffee – the rosary was in process in French with no sub captions. I grabbed my rosary beads. I was watching and holding the beads – still not aware or connected to what I should do…my computer went to a black screen (froze), and my rosary beads separated. I went and checked on family! Then I went back to my room and started my morning prayer and reading.
The words that came to me were writing on prayer’s difficulties after my morning readings. Life’s stressors (finances as an example) and immense human suffering are barriers to my prayer. It sometimes seems as if prayer is very far removed from daily reality.
My morning reading hit a few points on this challenge. The author, Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J. hit on the following points, among others that resonated with me today paraphrased into my words:
- Our prayer time is to talk to and listen to God; it is not in a vacuum but an interactive and searching revelation.
- Sloth is a refusal to accept gifts given to us (we are inherently creatures of action with given talents and abilities)
- Sometimes we could go the other way and pray like a “workaholic.” Fill our time with business; even in prayer can turn into purely human activity, denying God’s spirit to talk to us genuinely. Tetlow advises, “wastetime with God.” Or, in other words, for me – be patient and be present – more will be revealed if I am open.
- Avoid intolerance and a notion of “praying better.” This may be more spiritual pride than a spiritual discipline, spiritually gluttony rather than divinely inspired prayer.
Prayer and Action:
Many churches or religious organizations have come to realize that financial well-being of their congregation and of the institution is vital for continued focus on spiritual development and acts. Some even hold events like Dave Ramsey workshops and other activities in addition to ministries to the poor. Getting a grip on our own financial and spiritual wellness is pivotal for our ability to go to the next level of genuine spiritual altruism. I dislike the word “warfare” below – but I love the message it may send to readers that relate to sports or western competitive notions.
Giving time or money to good causes when we have excess is a key to individual and universal peace. I personally sometimes put more investment into a sports game or chess game than I do into say fighting for social justice, eradicating poverty, or simply being mindful of someone suffering nearby in my community. The discipline to the latter rather than seeking refuge in games of leisure requires a game plan…though both have their place, one should almost always take priority. Even recreation has a place in our lives. Enjoy that football game – and then do what the Cheifs fans – a 13 dollar donation drive to a Bills player charity Not the ending the Bill’s wanted – but a subscript for the ages in football.