Therapy and tithing. What an odd combination of topics.
Counseling is not cheap. I learned this after I graduated college and was looking for a therapist. I was still riding the waves of the emotional hurricane of Cambodian hospital experiences as well as trying to fight off my own personal archenemy, depression.
Counseling is not cheap, but I am. (At the time I was as stingy as Scrooge, and the only difference was I’d had the excuse of being a college student for the previous four years so people didn’t judge me quite so hard.) But you see the equation—something had to give. Well, really, I had to give. If I wanted counseling, that is.
When I first started going to counseling, it was up for debate in my head how often I would go. I was hesitant about spending so much money on myself. It seemed…excessive. Exorbitant, even. However, after the first couple sessions, the decision was no longer a difficult one—because after counseling, I didn’t feel like I was drowning anymore. I felt a little hope rise up in my chest; the suicidal thoughts faded after counseling.
This, I decided, was worth any amount I could pay. If someone had told me I could pay to have the feelings of suicidality go away…it would have been a dream come true. For so many long days and miserable nights, I had wished I could buy freedom from depression—I would have emptied my bank account in a heartbeat!
And here, in a counselor’s office, I finally found that a little bit of freedom was indeed available. Suddenly, the price seemed so small a sum of money compared to the alternative torture of riding the fence of suicide day in and day out.
It wasn’t a decision, really, because not being suicidal was so valuable to me.
The cost wasn’t even a question anymore because mental health had become so important to me. Every single time I spent money, I weighed the benefit and the cost, but I had never witnessed the scales tip so drastically in favor of the benefits before.
One day, as I was driving home from counseling, I began thinking about money and my mind wandered to tithing. I often found it hard to tithe, just as I found it difficult to write a check to my therapist those first couple of sessions. I cringed a little inside as I thought of the expenses on my budgeting spreadsheet adding up, and I hesitated to add tithing to the list.
Yet as I recognized this feeling—this hesitance to let go of money and a sense of control and security—I thought of the scales weighing benefit and cost, and I had one of those moments where I realized how good God was to me all over again.
God is so good to me. His love is unconditional, and His presence is constant. He gives me breath in my lungs and plants hope in my heart every morning. He doesn’t withhold His goodness if I withhold my tithe or if I rebel or for any reason at all. He is the Wonderful Counselor, and He is everpresent, Emmanuel.
He doesn’t require me to pay for His relationship; in fact, He paid the highest price—His Son’s very life—for me already. For me to spend not a session but eternity with Him. He gives us life itself, and He gives us Him self.
Suddenly, tithing seems like nothing. How incredible that He asks for (not demands or requires, but requests) money.
Of course He can have it. It’s His, anyway. And when I think of His love, His goodness, His companionship…all the money in the world cannot buy these things. Tithing transforms from a sacrifice to an honor as I realize again how grateful I am for Him, for a relationship with Him, for His love, for His presence, for His promises.
He who paid the highest price for us invites us to walk with Him each day. What a privilege it is to offer back to Him a few dollars in gratitude.