God moves in a mysterious way" doesn't appear in the Bible—British poet William Cowper wrote those words in 1774—but mysterious well describes an experience that took me years to understand.
When our children were younger, we employed a hard-working woman to clean our house each week. An enthusiastic Christian, she lived from paycheck to paycheck, always struggling financially, yet never losing her joy in the Lord.
One spring Tuesday, instead of driving up in her rusty Toyota, she climbed out of a friend's car, then dragged her cleaning supplies through the kitchen door, trying hard not to look dejected. "My old car finally quit for good," she explained. "I found another one just like it at a used car lot, but I don't have $12 to spare, let alone $1,200."
I commiserated with her and promised I'd pray for God's provision.
But my conscience wouldn't let the subject rest. She needs a car, Liz. God has blessed you … can't you bless her? Verses from past sermons prodded me: "The righteous give without sparing" (Proverbs 21:26) and "be generous and willing to share" (1 Timothy 6:18).
The Lord made it abundantly clear what was expected of me. But what about my frugal (ok, tight) husband, Bill? Would he get the same message?
Bill not only said yes, he also escorted her to the dealership and dutifully kicked the tires. Such a good man.
The following Tuesday she drove up to our house, tooting her horn and grinning from ear to ear. "Even if it takes me years to pay you back, it's worth it," she insisted. "How can I ever thank you?"
I smiled back at her. "By letting us simply give it to you." I didn't want our working relationship to hinge on an unpaid loan. How much better to make it a gift, rather than a business transaction.
If my column ended on this happy note, you might close your TCW thinking what fine, generous Christians we are. But that won't do. The car was the Lord's idea, not ours, and was paid for with his money. Bill and I were little more than conduits.
Besides, the story isn't over.
The next Saturday at midnight, our phone rang. I leaped from the bed and grabbed the receiver, my heart in my throat. Was a family member ill? Injured? Dying?
"Oh, Liz." It was the strained voice of our house cleaner. "It's … my car … it's gone."
I listened in disbelief as she told her sad tale. An unstable neighbor in her apartment building had set her Toyota on fire. Burned it to ashes. For no reason at all.
"He torched your car?" Whoever heard of such a thing? After exhaling with frustration, I offered what comfort I could. "At least your insurance will cover it."
"But I don't … have … insurance."
I gripped the phone, furious with the nameless pyro and angry with myself for not making certain she was insured.
"Please, Liz … please don't be mad. I can pay you back."
"Don't be silly," I chided her gently, releasing the last traces of my anger into the darkened room. "The fire wasn't your fault, sweetie. And anyway, your car was a gift."
Some gift, Lord. What happened? Weren't we generous enough? Wasn't she needy enough?
Even after her son managed to get her old car working, I struggled over the strange turn of events. Had we missed something? Some lesson we were supposed to learn, some undiscovered truth?
Jesus once said to his disciples, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (John 13:7).
A decade later, what I understand is this: God calls us to be obedient and to trust in him. Even when we can't see the "why" or "how" of things. Even when the results don't seem to make sense.
Though God's way may be mysterious, his love is fully insured. And his grace is blessedly fireproof.
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of 22 books, including her latest historical novel, Whence Came a Prince (WaterBrook Press). She lives with her husband and their two teenagers in Kentucky.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.Click for reprint information on Today's Christian Woman.