[4th in a series about God’s provision]
Our income stopped.
Suddenly, with little warning, all funding sources dried up. There was just enough trickling in to pay our office overhead, but no salaries. We said good-bye to our office assistant, who needed a job with a paycheck. Our other co-worker, Cecilia, drastically simplified her life, and incredibly stuck with us as she undertook her own journey of faith.
And there we were. Pete and I had a mortgage. We had the normal expenses of owning two cars, living in a house, and wearing clothes. We had a habit of eating regular meals. We had one daughter, still in college, who was planning a wedding. Our other daughter, already graduated and gainfully employed, was more and more frequently referring to this guy named Jeremy. Hmm. Parents aren’t that dense.
I should add here that we regularly tithed to our church. We gave additional support to an assortment of ministries and missionaries. Never, not once, did we believe that God was judging or punishing us for any extravagance or lack of generosity on our part. It was with a clear conscience that we went to God and asked,
“So, what’s your plan to pay for all this?”
God imparted some clear guidelines. It was important, to Him and to us, to continue our support of others. God’s word says to give generously. “And,” God said, “No debt.”
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,…” (TNIV) While Romans 13:8 applies primarily to moral debt, we sensed the Spirit saying it applied financially to us, at this time, as well.
I wish I could say I carried on in great faith, always trusting God to provide, and glorying in our trials. But I didn’t. Many times, we were down to the wire. Over and over, God provided the funds the very hour the bills needed to be paid. Many times I was in despair over whether or not we would keep our house, or pay the utilities, or maintain our good credit rating. I spent hours crying out to God. In truth, I spent hours whining at God.
Rather than take credit for my not-so-great faith, I want to testify to God’s great faithfulness.
Little by little, I learned to see things different. I learned to let go. I learned to depend on God.
First we used up our savings account. How could we claim God wasn’t providing, when we had several thousand dollars just sitting there for emergencies. Clearly, this was an emergency.
Then we drained our retirement account. All the financial advisors tell you not to do this. No one mentions what you do when God tells you otherwise. We figured that relying on His provision for the present was no different than relying on Him to take care of our future. It’s all his responsibility. Our job is to obey. It sure makes our home accounting easier, not having all those statements to balance.
We sold some more assets. That paid a few bills. In obedience, we sold both our cars. Since we live several miles out of town, there is no public transportation available. A car is truly a need, not a luxury. God was going to have to provide.
We planned a garage sale. God said, “Give it away.” So we did.
We considered selling our house. God said, “Keep it. It is my gift to you.” With our low utilities and the excellent interest rate on our mortgage, that made sense. We also didn’t have time to prepare a house for sale, market it, find another house, pack and move. Life was already bursting at the seams.
I looked into getting a paying job. God said, “No.” For one, I was the primary caretaker for my elderly father, who was being treated for stage four cancer. He was living with us because he was too sick to stay in his own home. Taking him to appointments, juggling medications and just trying to make it through each day used a great deal of my time and energy.
Two, I found I couldn’t earn enough to justify the additional expenses and hassles we would incur if I went to work. I did pick up some temporary hours. It didn’t have much impact on our bank account, but it sure impacted my mental health. I had plenty to do. I didn’t need more.
We hung in there. Dangling without a safety net. Day by day, I told God I couldn’t take another moment of living like that. I was exhausted. God piled on more. A computer crash combined with defective back-ups cost Pete seven months of work. Life was so overwhelming, the lack of income took a back seat to more pressing issues.
There were bright spots. Our younger daughter married an absolutely wonderful man—a parent’s dream come true. My dad’s cancer miraculously went into remission, in spite of his inability to tolerate more than half of his scheduled chemo treatments. He eventually regained sufficient health to move into his own senior apartment. Pete increased his own load so that I could take several weeks off for rest and retreat. I spent the time alone, mostly camping on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. God’s presence was tangible, and I came home greatly refreshed and restored.
Yet, it was still an extremely difficult time for our family. If we had known it would last for three long years, we would have lost hope. There is a reason that no one but God knows the future.
It is said that you only see miracles when you truly need them. “God,” we prayed, “We need some miracles. Since we have no income, we trust You to come through in a supernatural way.
Our faith grew. Instead of prayers of desperation, we became to say, “God, we believe this is going to be exciting. We can’t wait to see what You choose to do.”
What did God do? He proved Himself faithful.
Sure, we didn’t have new clothes every season. We didn’t need them. When old outfits wore out, friends shared their abundance with us. We always had something to wear. And twice, I had a new mother-of-the-bride dress to feel special in.
At our younger daughter’s wedding reception, our older daughter’s friend, Jeremy, caught the garter. To our great delight, he proposed shortly thereafter. We didn’t pay for two entire weddings, but we contributed significantly to both. And both were lovely events to treasure in our memories.
We never went hungry. Not once. It would do my weight some good to be hungry more often. We ate home most of the time. We learned to appreciate our friends’ generosity when they occasionally took us out to eat. We don’t often dine on steak or lobster, but we eat well. No complaints there!
God provided transportation in a totally unexpected way. About the time we sold our cars, my dad became unable to drive. Both his vehicles—he had a station wagon and a pick-up—moved to our garage. We told him he’d graduated to having a couple of chauffeurs.
We never missed making a house payment. Some were last-second, but all were paid on time. After facing the real possibility of losing it, I appreciate my house more.
Aside from our mortgage, which is substantially less than the value of our home, we have no debt. We didn’t believe God wanted us to turn to loans to meet our needs; He wanted us to turn to Him. An additional benefit? We don’t have to pay Him back. In fact, we can’t. Since God’s credit report is spotless, ours is just as good as ever.