Standing Strong in Difficult Times
Numerous Americans are struggling to survive in our wretched economy. Many are losing their homes and businesses—even those who voted to bring in “change” in the last presidential election. For most, it wasn’t the change anticipated.
When I read twenty-five true stories of God’s provision during unemployment and financial despair in God’s Provision in Tough Times by Cynthia Howerter and La-Tan Roland Murphy, I was shocked that so many people I know whose stories were included in this book had struggled because of home and job losses. Listen to part of my dear friend’s story as only La-Tan—one who has lived through loss—can tell it:
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
“Don’t ever lose your song.” I have been known to say this to friends and loved ones who were going through tough times. This quote holds a strong, unspoken message that says: “No matter what hardships you face in this life, a song will lift you up out of the pit and keep your heart encouraged!”
It’s one thing to watch others go through financial crisis, yet another to go through it personally. I must confess, if this season of our lives was a test—I had failed it terribly!
My faith had been so strong in years past, at least I thought so. In fact, I found great joy in testifying to others how God would provide for them in tough times as I repeatedly referred back to my parent’s own personal story of financial despair, in an attempt to encourage others with an eye-witness account. Eagerly, I had shared how they had persevered through the toughest financial times. I often found myself becoming emotional while sharing the heart wrenching story about the loss of their home, land, and all they had worked for at retirement age. Although sharing such personal pain forced me to relive those days and feel the sting once again of their devastating loss, still, I pushed myself past my own raw emotions, with self-surrendering determination in order to share boldly how God—the great Jehovah-jirah, had proven Himself faithful to provide.
Though strong as I seemed while sharing their story, nothing could have prepared me for what was ahead. Financial despair brought on by my husband’s unemployment and the insecurities that tagged along behind it, unveiled the fullness of my frail humanity as I wept into my pillow at night, often. Where was God in all of this? Had I been a silly optimist for believing He would always come through? The enemy rushed in each morning, eager to fill my vulnerable ears with the lie that I had been such a fool for boasting of my God’s provisional power. My heart knew better. But, my head warred against the truth and the lies often became my reality. All I could see was doom and gloom. My heart had lost its song.
Going from a six figure income to a four digit income seemingly overnight, had tested our once unshakeable faith. Our thriving, comfortable little world suddenly withered before our very eyes. We felt trapped in a bad dream we could not wake up from. How could we make it on a four-digit yearly income?
When my husband gave me the news, sheer panic seemingly grabbed me by my jugular, drawing the faces of our three children in close, as fear gripped my once faith-filled heart with questions and concerns for how this could affect their immediate future.
Our oldest son would be going to college soon. We were even more distraught when the financial aid report came back showing he would get no financial assistance. Disbelief met despair as our eyes scanned the paperwork. Surely, the loan company took note of the fact we were now only making a four digit income! Discouragement flooded every pocket of our weary hearts as we realized the loan company had based this decision on the six figure income made the year prior to this one.
To make things worse, my husband’s mother, who had fought a fourteen long battle with cancer, had been told by the Doctor’s the end was near. While my father also lay bedbound for two and half years due to Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The added stress of watching our loved ones suffer seemed too much to bear in itself. Now, we were not only facing the loss of two spiritual giants we loved deeply, but we also faced the death of financial hopes and dreams. Though not physically bedbound like my sweet father, we realized we too were bound to external realities that threatened to paralyze us as well. Though not physically sick, we were heart sick. We had lost our song.
My husband’s parents lived three and a half hours away from us. Because we were in need of income, and fast, my husband moved in with his parents in order to help with the family business. Having handled multi-million dollar corporate accounts in the business world, he now became a used car salesman. Though we were thankful for God’s provision, this shift in positions was a blow to his self-esteem as a man, and as the head of our home. He had only worked in the field of telecommunications up to this point and had invested himself fully as a professional, taking pride in his work and his ability to provide for our family. Though there were days I felt paralyzed by fear, my heart also felt sad for him as he faced so much change and so much loss after all the years of hard work, only to be forced to move in with his dear family so not to uproot the children’s lives, especially our graduating senior's life. All of these things tore away at my husband’s heart. But, his audacious, determined spirit, would not allow him to give up.
The weeks were long for me as I stayed in Raleigh to keep our home life going. The responsibility of making sure the three children were keeping up in school, doing their homework, and following through on all the extra-curricular activities, along with loneliness brought on by my husband’s absence in our home, mingled with gut-wrenching grief for our dear parents suffering.
Having a praise-filled attitude had been easy for me-at least before going through this tough time of life. In fact, my friends and family teased me often about wearing rose colored glasses—asking how I could see the good even in the bad times of life. Now, the view from my world had turned into a dizzying kaleidoscope of pain as my rose colored life defined by comfort and financial peace, went haywire.
Every prayer I prayed during this dark time seemed empty and powerless. Life felt very different. I wanted things to be the way they use to be. I even expressed to a friend how strange I felt inside…like someone flipped a switch and my joy light got turned off. I remember standing in front of the mirror blankly staring at the woman who looked like me. The financially comfortable version of me had a smile on her face. She felt safe and secure, confident her financial needs would be met each day, as well as the needs of her children. I stood motionless, and lifeless, the blank look in my eyes said it all. What happened to the woman who prided herself in singing her way through just about any difficult situation, I wondered. What happened to the joy-filled, carefree spirit? What happened to my optimistic ability to “fake it until I could feel it?” I could always muster up enough energy to deal with…whatever IT was. My heart somehow always had a song. Sadly, there was no song of praise to be found anywhere near the pitiful, empty recesses of my soul. I suddenly felt shallow and guilty.
Though the circumstances surrounding my feelings would not quickly change, the woman in the mirror reminded abruptly that I had to change. My emotions had been ruled by our financial devastation. My joyful song had been interrupted and I could not sing through the pain. Though I knew God’s word promises to take care of His children’s need according to His great riches in Christ Jesus, I had entered into a time of dark despair that was based on external things. The enemy had taken advantage of this dark time, sneaking in through the back door of my broken heart, like a robber in the night, taking my most valuable source of strength…my joy.
I read in God’s word: “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” No wonder I felt like I had concrete bricks strapped to my ankles. I had lost my joy. Because of that, I had lost my strength.
Could I muster up a song? Could I sing in the pain? These and many more questions like it taunted my once optimistic heart. Where had my song gone-the song I had prided myself in singing over others when they were going through struggles.
In desperation, I asked the Lord to help me focus on everything praiseworthy in our lives. I was amazed by how many things He brought to mind. I began to thank God for all He had done for us in the past and for how faithful He had always been in supplying our every need. I asked Him to forgive me for my unbelief and fill me with a new joy that was not based on circumstances but on His power and goodness to see us through. He did just that!
Though the circumstances did not change overnight, slowly God began to change me. He changed my perspective from loss to gain. He began to lift up the veil that had blocked joy and allowed me to catch a glimpse of His heavenly perspective. He began to show me the blessing of my husband having time with his dying mother in the last year of her life. Along with the revelation of blessing and refining power this hardship had in steadying my oldest son to be a leader before going out into the world, as he took on much of my husband’s responsibilities while away. The Lord also established our marriage on a much firmer foundation than ever before. We became much more of a team. Many weekends when he came home, I had to leave to go to Georgia to be with my ailing father. The support and compassion we were able to give each other during this time was nothing short of God’s provision to us in this tough time of our lives.
I still find myself amazed by the power of God and how He wastes nothing. When we surrender our deepest points of pain over to Him, he takes it, molds it into something useful for His glory and gives us a powerful story to share with others who are going through tough times.
My husband and I have much more peace when we think of our futures because of the way the Lord provided for us during this season in miraculous ways. The part that left the deepest imprint in our hearts is how God provided not only for our physical needs, but also our emotional needs. To this day, we both stand amazed at the power of God and also how gentle and tender hearted He is to His children. He sees each of us, knows us by name, loves us with an everlasting love and provides for all our needs. He is ever-faithful and ever-true. He does not sleep while we struggle but is always working for the good of those who put their hope and trust in Him. He gives power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and strength to the weak. He longs to put a new song in the hearts of children who have lost their song in the midst of tough times.
Though your circumstances may not change, allow God to change your thinking. Before you know it, you just might find yourself singing in the pain!
As I write this article, I’m having a difficult time singing through the pain upon hearing the news that Australian baseball player for ECU, Christopher Lane, has been killed by a drive by shooting while jogging in Duncan, Oklahoma after a visit with his girlfriend. Not only are people losing homes and livelihoods, innocents are being gunned down for no reason other than one of the murderers admitting, “We were bored. We had nothing to do. We decided we’d kill somebody.”
America is facing excruciating times ahead. More families will lose their homes and jobs before the economy improves—if it ever does with our government intent on a reckless pace of spending. We’re only five years in to the predicted ten year turnaround time for a possible housing market recovery.
And it’s a given that with gang members and terrorists looking for targets to “take out,” along with random innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, many more will lose their lives. The only way to get through what America is facing is believing and trusting what La-Tan has gleaned through her Bible studies and shared: “He [God] does not sleep while we struggle but is always working for the good of those who put their hope and trust in Him. He gives power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and strength to the weak. He longs to put a new song in the hearts of children who have lost their song in the midst of tough times.”
On any given day, an American citizen faces losing everything—including life. America is not exempt from world woes. To prepare and fortify for any type of scenario, I highly recommend reading God’s Provision in Tough Times. It’s comforting to know others have walked through the fire and are still standing strong.
I thank La-Tan Roland Murphy and Cynthia Howerter for allowing me to use this story from their book. To read more about these two authors visit their Web sites at: http://latanmurphy.com/ and http://cynthiahowerter.com/