I sat in shocked disbelief, trying to process the harsh truth behind the much gentler words my boss had just delivered. I'd been laid off.
With the downturn in the economy, I'd seen both friends and family members lose their jobs. And each time I'd prayed—for them, of course, but also for myself. "Please, God, don't let that happen to me." Suddenly my fear had become reality, and at what was undoubtedly the toughest financial time our family had faced in years. Our son was in college, and in another year our daughter would be as well. How could we afford one tuition payment on my husband's teacher salary, let alone two?
In the days and months that followed, as my attempts to secure another position failed, I experienced feelings of panic and insecurity. What if I couldn't find another job? How would we pay the bills? Keep our kids in school? I pored over my Bible, struggling to find stability and comfort in verses such as Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."
But my faith wobbled. My problem wasn't that I didn't believe God was causing "everything to work together." It was that I feared God's master plan might take me through painful and difficult places before I reached that "good." Places I really didn't want to go.
The Next 24 Hours
Then one morning God took a familiar verse and hit me right between the eyes. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5, emphasis added). I realized if ever anyone was leaning on her own understanding, it was me: my understanding of what is best for me and for my family. From my point of view, that meant a comfortable, secure life.
As much as I like to think I'm the ultimate authority on who I am, however, God knows me better. Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." As a Christian I know that I need to give Christ complete control over my life if I'm to have any hope of becoming more like him. But I sometimes forget that placing God in charge has practical, as well as spiritual, benefits. God knows every single thing that's going to happen to me—the good and the bad—throughout all my days on this earth. It's as if he has the complete, detailed map (or these days, a really good GPS) to my final destination. By not trusting in him, by worrying about what each day will bring and "leaning on my own understanding," I'm basically refusing guidance from the One who has my route all planned out, stubbornly stumbling around in the dark instead.
As I've worked to trust God through this time of financial uncertainty, I've found a comfort in a few ways. First, I have stopped looking ahead. When you're living from paycheck to paycheck, it's easy to become overwhelmed by what the future may hold. There will always be another tuition bill, car payment, or appliance needing to be replaced, but I no longer anticipate them. I'm not talking about abandoning a budget or financial plan—those are great tools. But as I practice my renewed determination to trust God, I've adopted a one-day-at-a-time approach to my faith. Somehow relying on him completely for the next 24 hours—rather than the next 24 weeks, months, or years—feels a lot more doable. Matthew 6:34 says it best: "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Amen!
A Look Back
Second, I've started looking back. In my many years as a Christian, God has repeatedly demonstrated his faithfulness. Providing for my family when my father died. Allowing me to spend eight years as a stay-at-home mom, when all the facts and figures said we could never afford to have me quit my job. Leading me to a new career that fulfilled an old dream. The list goes on.
The tangible evidence of God's goodness and care that's played out again and again in my life reassures me. We have a rich history, God and I, and he's always been there when I've needed him. I have proof that my trust is not misplaced; God has been faithful, and he will "supply all [my] needs" (Philippians 4:19). When I'm having a bad day and feel crushed under burdens, both mental and emotional as well as financial, I find comfort in remembering past times when the way ahead seemed impossible, yet God brought me through.
You Can't Out-Give God
Finally, I've found unexpected blessing in continuing to tithe despite our sometimes precarious financial state. Writing out that check can be difficult—after all, I know the church won't send a bill collector if our money doesn't show up in the offering plate. But it's a physical expression of my gratitude that God has provided for our family and my trust that he will continue to do so.
My mother has a favorite saying: "You can't out-give God." This past week, I learned how true that statement is. After making our first double tuition payment, we were out of cash, and my husband's monthly stipend for directing our church's praise band wasn't due for another week. Still, as I got dressed Sunday morning, I could sense God reminding me to prepare our offering. "We don't have the money, Lord," I argued. "I'll make it up later." But the nagging feeling didn't go away; deep down I knew what God expected me to do. Taking a deep breath, I wrote a check for our regular amount and slipped it into the offering envelope.
Before the service, my husband and I were in the church office making photocopies. Seated at a desk with some paperwork, one of our trustees looked up and said, "I'm signing the checks. Would you like yours now?"
"'I know the plans I have for you,'" says the LORD. "'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'" (Jeremiah 29:11). God is faithful. Even when we can't see it, or understand it, he has a plan. I'm looking forward to the day when I can look back on this difficult season as yet another example of his unfailing goodness.
Dawn Zemke is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Illinois.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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