I didn’t make rent this month. Yet, in a way I find comfort in that. As a man, it’s almost crazy to accept that these words are my own, because one of the deepest, inherent needs of the masculine soul is the need to provide for his family. Not being able to achieve that most basic of responsibilities can emasculate even the toughest, manliest of men.
This year has been a big challenge for me after losing my job in March. When I first got the news at the end of last year I didn’t worry about it. For a while I even considered it an opportunity for me to take my writing and speaking full-time, to go pro as it were. But as my last day of employment grew closer, I began to realize that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped to achieve this dream of mine to make a living doing what I feel called to do. It was a struggle of the soul.
Working a job allows me to bring home the bacon, but it doesn’t fulfill me like sharing my faith does. So for years I’ve fantasized about one day being able to make the transition from working for a company, to working in the vineyard of the Lord. I have yet to make that dream a reality. And not being able to do so wasn’t just disappointing, it was heartbreaking, soul crushing.
Through much discernment, asking God to show me His will for my life, I’ve prayed and prayed, but still have not come to know, at least as clearly as I would like to, what He wants me to do. But, I have continued to work. And as work has come and gone over the past few months, my primary battle has been to trust in God. The idea of trusting in God is something that I’ve written about quite a bit. I’ve reflected on it. I’ve preached it. But this year I’ve come to know what it’s like to live it out. Again and again, as I cling to the cross, God has provided me with new opportunities to learn this sacred art of trust.
The Sacred Art of Trust
Trust has to be complete. You either trust someone or you don’t. You can’t kind of trust somebody or trust them a little bit. If you say you trust someone, you trust them with your life. So when it comes to trusting in God, it means you trust Him in everything, without a doubt, without question, with infinite confidence. It’s easier said than done.
Allowing God into my finances, and trusting completely in Him to provide for the needs and well-being of my family, hasn’t been easy. And although for the most part I’ve had somewhat steady work since being laid-off, this past month I’ve lost two of my main clients. Bills didn’t get paid or got paid late. Worry started to weave itself into my head and my heart, stripping me of my peace and sense of self-worth as a husband and father, and questioning my identity as a beloved child of God. It was rough. And this past week, the realization set in that I wasn’t going to be able to pay the rent on time.
Throughout all of this I haven’t lost faith. In fact, it has served as an opportunity for me to pray without ceasing as St. Paul famously exhorts us in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Gratitude has been a driving force behind everything. I took up a deep sense of thanksgiving for all that I have and all that God has given and done for me. I prayed, not for Him to make things easier or to solve my problems, but for His will to be done in my life and if at all possible for Him to clue me in on the plan He has for me. “Trust in me”, is the only response I seem to be hearing from Him.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I didn’t want to tell Him that I trusted Him, then go and try to solve the problem without Him. I really thought and prayed about it and felt that He was challenging me to prove my trust for Him. I was reminded of that scene in Genesis where Abraham is called to sacrifice his son Isaac. He had wanted a son his whole life and finally in his 70’s God grants him that gift. But God quickly sees how Abraham has fashioned his beloved son into an idol of sorts, a golden calf. By challenging Abraham to sacrifice his precious son, God is testing his faith. And in the end, even though it breaks his heart, he shows that he is willing to give up what is most dear to him to prove his trust in God. At that climactic moment, God intervenes and prevents Abraham from sacrificing his son, providing instead a ram for the sacrifice.
It’s an intense scene, and it’s exactly how I felt this past week. As the worry ate away at my confidence in the Lord, I caught myself sinking into that same place as Abraham. I knew I had some money on the way from some projects I had completed earlier that month, but I wasn’t sure if the checks would arrive in time. And as difficult as it was for me to overcome the uncertainty, I surrendered. I gave up control and showed God that I trusted in Him, not knowing whether or not He was going to come through. I proclaimed in faith that I trusted Him, even if things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped and prayed for, even if He didn’t come through in the way I wanted Him to. Nevertheless, I put my trust in Him and nothing else.
Trusting in God Despite the Outcome
In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel we find the story of three holy men who are unwilling to turn their backs on God by bowing down to the golden statue of the reigning King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Of course this enrages the king who orders them to be thrown into a fiery furnace. Not only are they willing to face death rather deny their faith in God, but they take it even further than that in their response to the king.
“There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
That’s trusting in God! You see, they don’t put their money on God’s action in their life, but they trust Him whether or not He is willing to intervene and prevent their suffering. Can you say that about yourself? Do you trust in God, even when He doesn’t show up? Even when He seems to be absent? Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to give up their very lives to prove without a doubt their own level of trust in God.
As for me, I still don’t know how things are going to pan out, but I do feel like this whole experience has served the purpose that it needed to. It has taught me the lesson I needed to learn. And it has shown me that I do trust in God, that my faith is even stronger than I thought.
“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8