“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
Jonah 2:8 (NIV)
Following God on this journey into full-time ministry has not been easy. As I prepared to re-enter college and eventually seminary in my late 30’s, I had experienced more than enough life to realize it was a myth to “have it all.” For me, it was not possible to be a good wife, mother, and full-time student plus have a career. If this was what God was calling me to do, something would have to go.
Obviously, wife and mother were not roles I was willing to compromise and I knew I was supposed to go back to school, so work was let go of during this new season of ministry preparation. My husband and I were both on the same page about this decision and felt like God had very clearly impressed upon us both that I was not to work. So we moved forward in this decision and everything went pretty well - at first.
I was my own biggest obstacle when it came to having peace during those first few years of schooling and it always surrounded one specific issue. Money.
I would not have put it this way back then, but the reality was I didn’t believe God was going to take care of us. Maybe that’s not exactly true. I did believe he would but felt like I needed to help him. I mean it’s not easy in our day and age for a family of 4 to live on one income. So an ugly cycle began.
I would do pretty well going to school for several months and then I would hate that we had to watch every penny so closely. I would resent the fact that I couldn’t give my kids things they wanted (not needed) and then I would begin to justify in my head that I wasn’t being a good parent. I mean doesn’t God want us to “leave an inheritance for our children” (Proverbs 13:22)?
My twisted thinking would then lead me to look for a part-time job that would inevitably end badly. The job would suffer, my family would suffer, or I would be a crazy person. Regardless of the issue, after about 6 weeks, I would quit only to repeat the same cycle again in 3 or 4 months.
To my husband’s credit, every time I would begin to get restless about working he would remind me, “Steph, you’re not supposed to be looking for a job, God’s gonna take care of us.” I heard him, I did, but I was clinging so tightly to my “worthless idol” of control that I ignored his reminders and would take things once again into my own hands.
In his kindness and love, after my 5th or 6th botched attempt to work, God stepped in and revealed who was really in control.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a Bible Study on a Tuesday evening and studying the book of Esther. Overall it was going pretty well until the speaker said something that made me squirm a bit. She said, “What is it that you are most afraid of? Got it? Ok, now take out a piece of paper and write it down.”
I thought to myself, “Yeah right, that’s not gonna happen. There is no way I’m putting that down in writing anywhere.” Then I heard the Lord whisper, “Steph, you know I already know what you’re afraid of, right?”
Ugh, “Fine!” I muttered under my breath and began to write… I AM MOST AFRAID OF FINANCIAL INSECURITY.
Ok, I did it. That wasn’t so awful, but then the speaker began to talk more. This time she didn’t just make me squirm; she downright ticked me off. Very tenderly she said, “Look at your paper. You see that fear you just wrote down? For some of you, that very thing will happen in the next 24 hours.” In less than 2 seconds, my blood began to boil. I thought, “Who does this person think they are to say such things!” I knew I was not capable of having a calm, God-honoring conversation with anyone at that point, so as soon as things were done, I grabbed my stuff and bolted out the door.
I was fuming all the way home and couldn’t wait to vent to my husband, but when I walked in the door something was not right. I didn’t even have time to put my stuff down when he walked over to me looking kind of pale, put his arms around me and very emotionally said, “I was laid off today.”
I was speechless. He had been in his field for about 18 years and never once been laid off because the market was slow – never!
My need to fix and control kicked into really high gear then and I was even more determined than ever to work and help out. To my surprise, my husband was more adamant than ever about me not working saying, “Steph, God has been VERY CLEAR about this, YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO WORK RIGHT NOW – STOP!”
I knew he was right, but can I just say, I was angry. I was angry at his company, the economy, the situation, and most importantly I was angry with God. I mean, God knew how difficult it was for me to not help provide and now he was going to allow my husband to lose his job? Really?
If there is anything I got right during this season it was to keep talking to God even when I was mad. So I prayed. Over and over for weeks, I prayed about this until one day I had nothing left. My words were gone and all I could do was sit silently.
As I sat there weeping, I heard these words whispered to my heart, “Steph, you don’t think I can provide for you on one income. You watch me provide when there is none.”
Provide he did!
I can’t fully explain it, but for almost 4 months no bill was late, we had food, and all of our needs were met. We did our part by being very frugal and pinching every penny, but ultimately God is the one who stretched our resources and took care of us. And I NEVER looked for another job again until all my schooling was done.
God had made his point very clear – he was in control, not me.
You see, when we "cling to worthless idols” whatever they may be – people, money, power, control, material things – we “forfeit the grace” that God longs to bestow on us and we miss out.
Thankfully he is faithful even when we aren’t, and in his love, he uses even our mess-ups to get us back on track. Only Jesus is that lovingly generous!
For Your Reflection…
What are you clinging to instead of Jesus? Be honest, how’s that working for you?