It was nearly two weeks ago that Jim was informed that his position will be eliminated as of 12/31. He works for an international Fortune 500 company, with sales of $26 billion, that has seen more than its share of downsizing and outsourcing over the past several years. So while not entirely unexpected, the confirmation of our concerns over the past few months was nevertheless a blow.
Through the years, our family has been extravagantly blessed — we will celebrate 20 years of marriage later this month; 20 years of commitment, love, friendship and a shared sense of calling to our highest mission — the spiritual growth and development of our two girls. God has used us in spite of our many weaknesses, mistakes and failures to shape them into bright, beautiful, gifted, fun-loving and (usually!) delightful human beings whose hearts belong first and foremost to Him.
He has comforted us in the loss of those we have deeply loved and guided us through uncertain and anxious times. We have trusted Him with major decisions, serious illnesses and the daily stress, anxiety and worries that accompany life with teenage girls. We trust that in this transition He will be faithful as He has been before.
— My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
When things are going well, we have the illusion of strength and security. It is not until we encounter a situation that is completely outside our control that we are forced to acknowledge that we are truly powerless. Nothing has really changed except our own mindset; we are not any less secure than we were when things were going smoothly; the only difference is that we now realize it! So — now that we have been reminded that we are weak, we can boast in our weakness and find peace and comfort in His strength.
Because we know that His grace is sufficient, we can choose to be free from worry about the future. That doesn’t mean that there is no fear or stress, or that there aren’t tears, discouragement and frustration; it doesn’t even mean that, knowing His goodness and faithfulness, we always do choose to be free from worry. There are good days and bad days.
What I do know for certain, though, is that, as I like to tell my kids, God’s plans for us have already been put into place. He had it figured out before we were born. He has answered the questions, done the deal, dotted every i and crossed every t. And He will reveal His plan to us on His timetable, not on our own. We are not called to understand His timing, just to trust Him and to do our best with the gifts He has given us.
Last week we heard a sermon from Sam, our former senior pastor. He preached from Daniel 3, (which is also what I’ve been studying in my Thursday morning Bible study) the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The three men were thrown into the furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar because they would not worship the king’s idol. They could have avoided their fate by one simple act: bowing down to the idol. But they refused to take the easy way out; though they faced an agonizing death, they allowed themselves to be bound and faced the furnace. Here is what they said:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
They knew that God was able to deliver them from death; but they trusted Him even if he chose not to. And we all know the end of the story; they survived the furnace without even the smell of smoke on their clothing (v.27). We also know that there was a fourth man in the fire with them, whom many Bible experts believe to be Jesus. And the three men went on to prosper as they never had before and the king decreed that all would worship the one true God.
Sam said it so much better than I ever could, but the point is that Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego trusted completely, even to the point of death, not knowing if God would deliver them or not. What blessings would they have missed if they had sought to save their lives and avoid the furnace? The nation would have continued to worship a worthless statue and the three probably would not have been promoted to the lofty positions they achieved.
So, maybe we are in the furnace now. But we are not alone. There is a “fourth man” right here with us. And although it’s scary, I really don’t like heat at all, and an easy way out could be really nice right now, there will be blessings on the other side that are immeasurably more satisfying than earthly security.
Please pray for us; pray for patience, strength, guidance. But don’t worry about us — there really is no need — we are already rejoicing in the good that will come from this trial as we trust in His perfect will.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11