“Trust in the LORD with all your heart/and lean not on your own understanding;/in all your ways acknowledge him,/and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6
I like to worry. Clearly, I must because I always seem to do it. I’ve often tried to convince myself that I’m attempting to discover God’s will so that I can plan and take the necessary steps to make sure I follow it. However, if I’m really honest with myself, all the ‘planning’ I do is really a not-so-good disguise for my worry. I embrace anxiety when God’s will is not clear and fear making the wrong decision, and until very recently, I did not realize how backwards those tendencies are.
Worrying about not knowing God’s will–worrying–is not any part of His plan, and for the first time, I am starting to understand this point. God has shown me that He does not operate the way that I think He should but in the way that He knows is best. I am learning that while sometimes God’s will is clear from the get-go, other times He reveals His plan along the way. And most frustrating of all, sometimes God seems silent, and in those times, I must rely on my faith and knowledge of His wonderful, perfect character to allow me to trust in Him. While I’d love to say that I’ve learned these truths simply by having incredible insight, I cannot. I have had to learn through a very trying situation for my husband and me, but without this trial, I would not have had the opportunity to experience Jesus’ amazing grace.
In 2004, I joined the United States Air Force and bought a home with my husband in Oklahoma where I was stationed. In 2006, I got out of the Air Force after the birth of my son, and my husband got a job transfer back to Georgia. We put our house up for sale and made our journey back to our home state. It is now 2009, and we still own that same house. We are now entering our fourth time of putting our house on the market after two not-so-successful rental experiences. We have repeatedly paid off debt and built up our emergency savings fund to only empty it again and go back into debt because of this home. At one point, I went back to work full time (I left the Air Force to be a stay-at-home mom and for no other reason) because our tenants decided to move out at the same time my husband’s former place of employment decided to re-structure and force him out of his job. And now, we are faced with at least two months of additional mortgage payments as our most recent tenants skipped out on their July rent payment and left our home a pig sty. We hope to have the house back on the market before the first of August, but who knows as the cleaning crew could not clean the other day because the water was turned off–apparently, our tenants skipped out on that bill, too.
When I went back to work previously, I was heart-broken. I couldn’t bear to leave my kids, at that time almost two and six months old. I questioned God–why wouldn’t He allow our house to sell? What was He trying to teach us? Why were we struggling when others we knew sold their homes on their first attempts?
After months of struggling at work and at home with our finances, I remember singing at church one Sunday. As I was singing that God holds the universe in His hand, I felt Him touch me: “I could sell your house if I wanted.” That was all God said to me, and it was enough. I had spent months and months wondering the next step for us–do I sign up to teach another year or part-time? Look for renters? Keep trying to sell?–and wondering what God’s will was and if He were even involved in this detail of our lives. After all, women were getting raped in the Sudan, children dying; what did my house matter to Him? And then He made clear to me what He was probably trying to say all along. Yes, we all have free-will and make decisions that affect our lives, but ultimately, if God wanted to intervene and make our house sell, He would. Clearly, He had other plans.
He did not reveal those plans to me, and as my husband and I are ready to suffer a huge financial loss if we are lucky enough to sell the home or face foreclosure if we don’t, I can actually say I have peace. Over the last two years I watched as the Lord provided both of us with jobs–no, I didn’t want mine, but I needed it at the time, and I was eventually able to stay home again when we got our previous renters. Matt’s new job has been a complete blessing as he comes home happy, not burdened with fear of meeting his ever changing quotas, not stressed and unable to focus on his family. There were many months during this journey when unexpected checks in the mail appeared that got us through lean times, and as we face lean times again, I know the Lord will once again provide for us.
Having peace doesn’t mean that I’m not completely frustrated. Of course I am. Matt and I have always tried to do the right thing, and as a result we’ve had to struggle. While some couples enjoy weekly date nights, I’d happily accept a monthly date night! I’d love to have college accounts beginning to grow for my children and to be able to take them to the Georgia Aquarium or to the zoo when the fancy strikes, but our budget hasn’t allowed for that. And now, when we were just starting to do better financially, someone else walks away from his responsibility hurting us. But within my frustration, I can honestly say I’m not worried.
When Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life” (Matthew 6:27), he was talking to me. And he was talking to my friend who feels like the surmounting bills are going to swallow her. And he was talking to my husband’s family as they grieve over the death of their loved one. And he was talking to the mother and father who cling to their heavenly Father as their baby fights for his life.
I can always find someone who is in a worse situation than I, and that person’s problem brings perspective to mine, yet even that person is commanded not to worry. What an insane instruction! Or is it? Is God really asking that much of us? He really isn’t asking that much of us at all: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). It sounds like He just wants us to talk to Him, to be honest, and to let go.
I’m finally understanding. I’ve asked for God’s peace, but I’ve clung on to my worry, trying to understand the future while wrecking my present. I now know that for the peace of God to wash over me, I have to trust Him to hold my anxiety. It sounds easy enough, but it’s not for me. However, I know that if today I trust God with my home in Oklahoma and stop trying to understand His purpose, tomorrow I can give Him whatever greater obstacle crosses my path.