I have a good man. One of the best! We have gone through our share of trials together, and I have watched him weather storm after storm. I have seen him carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. I have witnessed him straining under the overwhelming burden of it, trying with all his strength to simply stay afloat.
We have had many struggles during our marriage. We have had times when we couldn’t pay our bills, we were getting calls from creditors threatening to take our home, and we were expecting that our vehicles would be repossessed. We have gone through many financial storms such as layoffs and economic downturns. We have followed trusted leaders into a treacherous sea of financial decisions and then have been abandoned, left to navigate to shore alone. We have made our share of bad decisions, landing us in overwhelming debt. We have also lived through the death of one dream after another, dreams that could have rescued us and put us on solid ground again.
One night a few years ago, we watched “Cinderella Man” together. It became one of my favorite movies because it depicted something we had been through. A young family with children to take care of. A man wanting to work so badly, but there was no work to be found. Things went from bad to worse in the middle of the Great Depression. Finally he got a break. His former boxing trainer had gotten him a fight! He would most certainly lose, but he would get paid. He jumped at the chance to provide for his family! The thought of being pummeled and hit until he was bloody was nothing to him. No suffering could compare to the thought of his children going without food. Miraculously, he won the fight and eventually was in line to fight for the heavyweight title. His opponent was a bear of a man who had killed someone in the ring with one knockout punch. When James J. Braddock was talking to the media about how he had become such an amazing boxer when previously he was only mediocre, this was his answer, “Now I know what I am fighting for…milk.”
At this point Chris made a comment that I will never forget. He said, “I would submit to a public beating if it would cancel all our debts.”
I almost wept right there! The heart of a man who stands up and fights for his family against seemingly unbeatable odds! Is there anything more courageous? Chris had no opportunity to get into the ring like Jimmy Braddock, but he did work two jobs for four years to get us out of debt. He worked hard, and he worked well. He was diligent and did everything with wisdom and integrity. In the midst of it, he realized that all of these jobs would drain him of his energy and time but never provide what we needed for our every growing family.
When Chris had the opportunity to buy a business, he jumped at it. He knew it would be a lot of work at first, but eventually he would be able to earn more as the owner and boss then he ever could as an employee. He leaped out of the boat and started to swim into uncharted waters with faith and excitement. It was true that we had failed many times before, but this time would be different!
It was about four months into owning the new business that we ran out of money. We knew that God had led us there, but we didn’t know how to move forward. I felt this amazing peace that everything would be just fine. I didn’t know how, but I knew that God did, so I could trust Him.
Chris, on the other hand, had to go into work each day and try to figure out how he was going to buy materials to make signs and how he was going to pay his employees to make the signs. On and on the troubles went day after day. The days turned into weeks, and no miraculous provision materialized. Things went from bad to worse.
I had seen Chris upset and discouraged before, but never like this. In his mind, he had failed. He had taken every resource we had and put it into this dream of a better life…and he had lost it all. The darkness surrounding him was so thick; I could hardly get through it. I could see that he was so tired of years of fighting and struggling, and his deepest heart’s desire was to just give up…on the business, on trying, on life. His father had left him before he was old enough to remember. Chris had vowed to himself that he would never leave his children fatherless. So he kept fighting although he had lost almost all hope. He kept going to work day after day, even though he felt it was useless.
He couldn’t see it, but I saw a miracle occurring. Instead of getting angry and trying to ease his pain with distractions, Chris became humble and quiet. He leaned into God. He went to church whenever he could, and I saw him worship God in the midst of his hopelessness!
One night we both went to church because they were offering personal prophecies. Boy, did we need a word from the Lord. Any type of encouragement would be a life-preserver! We sat down in the theater of our church and waited for one of the pastoral staff to come and pray for us. Anne Stock, a senior pastor, kneeled down to where we were sitting and began to pray. Her words were the very opposite of what Chris was expecting. He was feeling like the biggest loser and screw-up there ever was. Yet her prayer went something like this:
“God is enlarging you, showing you one more side. You are ready. He is showing you another dimension. Don’t be concerned. It is good. I pray for Grace to do this different and new thing. This is happening in your life right now is because He likes you! HE IS A STRANGE KIND OF BLESSER. You are going to make it through this fire not even smelling like smoke, because there is a 4th man in the fire. The fire is only burning that which had you bound; only the things that kept you from being free. Your heart will come out unscathed. Strength!”
Chris was blown away. God actually liked him and was blessing him. Our struggles were not because he was destined to be a loser for the rest of his life. It was because God knew he was ready to face this new trial and be enlarged by it.
I watched Chris begin to trust God more like a good Father, the good father that he had never had. We looked on as God provided dramatic miracles to keep our business going, not just once, but twice! And we see God doing the small miracles, day by day as we go into our fourth year. We have lost the concern for our own lives. Whether we fail or succeed is not so important. Instead we are living to see the kingdom of God come to our little sphere of influence, however God wants to do it.
God is a strange kind of blesser! As I look back over my life, the worst of times have always been linked to the very best of times. When I was depressed or stressed or sick or so tired I couldn’t go on, that is when God met me and shook my world with His amazing words. Words that have healed me and shaped who I am. Words that I can offer to others to give them hope and meaning. God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (PS 34:18). What a blessing it is to have God so close! Anything that comes into your life, no matter how evil or heartbreaking, can be turned around for good. God can use absolutely anything to bless you!
If you look over the lives of famous history makers such a Joseph (in the Bible), Squanto, George Washington Carver, Corrie ten Boom, and even contemporaries such as Roland and Heidi Baker, you can see it! You can see the crushing trials and loss that God used to bring about great blessings, not just for them but for the entire world. If you are facing hard times, remember, your destiny is so great, so important, that God cannot leave you as you are. He knows that there is an amazing treasure inside of you. He knows that this trial will cause your roots to go deep down into His living waters.
He knows that you are in the process of growing so deep and so wide and so strong, that all the powers of hell and all the forces on earth couldn’t move you from God’s purposes. And in the midst of it all – His blessings overflow!