I recently had a pivotal moment in my view of God, specifically regarding my faith. I've been married to my husband for about three years now. One particular area of our marriage that we have grown in dramatically is the stewardship of our finances. Financial unity as a newly married couple (and let's be honest, any married couple) can be challenging and messy, but we were determined to make it a strong and healthy aspect of our marriage. For the first two years we were married, I was a full-time teacher at a public school and my husband held management roles for a couple different companies. We made a decent enough living where we were never that close to being worried about paying bills or not having food on the table, and we worked hard to pay off a portion of the debt we had both brought into our marriage.
Fast forward to the past year or so, and honestly the toughest so far in my life. It's been full of hard transitions that have challenged my faith, my identity, and our marriage. In July 2017, I found out I was pregnant with our first child, due April 2018. My job was extremely rough on me mentally, physically, and emotionally, and I took this opportunity to quit teaching after he was born, with plans to be a stay at home mom. I was more than ready to no longer teach in a formal setting like the previous five years of my life, and we wanted to make it work financially with me occasionally picking up work from home as I could. But God had other plans, and the summer after our son was born, I interviewed for a part-time teaching position at a small Lutheran school and started teaching again the following 2018-2019 school year. Aside from being new to motherhood and starting a new job, we also bought a fixer upper, renovated, and moved to a new town and community during that year.
With that season mostly (and recently) behind us, the pivotal moment in my faith began when I received two notices from our bank in one day. One letter notified us of late fees on our car payment. This was a mistake on my part and easily rectified, but no less frustrating. The second notified us that we had overdrawn that particular account. It wasn't our primary account and it wasn't that we were totally out of money, but it was a glaring reminder that our finances were strained, and "excess" would not be the word I'd choose to describe our budget. It was scary. I was already feeling a bit guilty for some of our spending and worrying about the next several months because I'm now pregnant with our second child (due December 2019). A bulk of the prenatal appointments and subsequent delivery will be completely out of pocket until we meet our deductible, which is a pretty large number for us and since I only teach part time, I won't get paid during my maternity leave. I've been so worried about making ends meet in the coming months and kicking myself, wishing we had done more to be prepared. I don't need to go into more detail here, but unless you have always had plenty of money and exercised perfect stewardship of that money, you probably know the feelings I had when I stared at both letters. My stomach sank and I was hit with renewed anxiety, guilt, shame, and fear that I had been ignoring for some time. I was feeling guilty for areas we hadn't stewarded our money as well as we could have and frustrated with God, feeling like things just seemed unfair and that he should be making things easier on us (*insert eyeroll here*). It's incredible how one piece of paper can both immobilize you AND bring out your worst.
As I've reflected over this day, there are a couple of verses in the Bible that stand out to me regarding faith. First, Jesus's words to his disciples in Matthew 8:26 when they thought they might drown during a storm. "You of little faith," Jesus said, "Why are you so afraid?" He then miraculously rebuked the storm and the sky and waters settled into perfection. There's also Matthew 17:20. Jesus's disciples tried but weren't able to heal a young boy possessed by a demon. Jesus strongly rebukes their faithlessness and when they asked why they weren't able to expel the demon themselves, Jesus replied, "because you have so little faith." I don't know about you, but if I heard Jesus say that directly to me, it would be like a knife in the heart.
Because of your little faith.
He also explained to the disciples that all they needed was the faith the size of a mustard seed and they could MOVE MOUNTAINS. He made it sound so simple. In fact, he seemed frustrated with the disciples' lack of faith that wasn't even the size of a mustard seed. It's hard to wrap my mind around a kind of faith in God that is so strong and resolute that it could physically move something as permanent and unmoving as a mountain range.
My faith feels small, so we pray to God to give us faith. Stretch our faith. "Increase our faith!" as the disciples pleaded with Jesus in Luke 17:5. But what does that require on our part?
To get transparent, since I gave my life to Christ over ten years ago, I've struggled to have faith in the Lord in two specific areas of our humanity, the physical and practical. Essentially, it's a faithlessness towards the Lord's ability to physically heal and provide for our physical needs. There are countless passages in the Bible that clearly show God's ability to heal and provide, so I've always felt guilty or like a "bad Christian" for not having faith that God would do either of those things. Just like the disciples in the Matthew passages, I can see God do something, yet still fail to believe. And instead of addressing my faithlessness with the Lord, I've swept my guilt, or skepticism I guess you could say, under the rug and turned to God and His gospel for other things I am confident He will do, because He always has, like provide wisdom, give inner peace, and bestow grace and mercy in other various areas of my life.
So, after I read over those two letters and quickly rectified what I could on the late payments to ease my mind a little, I chose to do something that I wish I could say I do more often in overwhelming moments like this. I opened my Bible and got on my knees, literally, to pray. I started with Philippians 4:6. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." It did not immediately alleviate my worry or fear, but I took the "supplication" seriously, and I kept praying and pouring out my feelings to the Lord. Eventually, I ended up in the notes app on my phone, where I keep different quotes, scripture verses, and songs I may want to refer back to.
There it was. Just one sentence from a recent podcast I'd listened to, yet it was packed with truth and a crucial reminder for me.
When we push the gospel out of one area of our lives, we don't get to just keep it everywhere else.Maggie Combs, Journeywoman Podcast
Read that again and really let it sink in.
If we don't allow the gospel to work in ALL areas of our life, we are severely missing out on fully knowing the Lord. I have prayed, "increase my faith!" yet lived in the same belief systems I always have. I've chosen to believe that the gospel, the grace and mercy of God, reaches the more abstract and seemingly complicated areas of my life like my depression and desire for wisdom and peace in my life, but not the practical and physical, like the need for healing or, in this case, the concrete, undeniable need for money. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." When I read that quote and as I meditate on Hebrews 11:1, it's like these doors opened in my heart to a whole new world of possibilities. The possibility of seeing a side of the Lord I had NEVER seen or experienced before- His physical provision for our family ("assurance of things hoped for") when I couldn't see how in the world that would happen ("conviction of things not seen"). So many thoughts flooded my head and I was instantly grateful for the eye-opening work of the Holy Spirit. And, as is the work of the Lord, it had me considering if this season would be a season that I look back on in gratefulness and use as a witness to others to bring glory to God.
What areas of your life have you consciously (or subconsciously) pushed the gospel out because you haven't believed God cares or is able move in that part of your life? How have you been limiting the work of the Lord in you or your friends and family because of your faithlessness? Although I do believe that God will do what He needs to do to get His work done here on earth, He asks us to be a part of the journey and grants us the special, precious privilege of knowing Him through the process. I don't want to miss that or look back on a season with regret or, God forbid, bitterness because He "hasn't provided."
We should desire to see the Lord work in our lives, not just in ways He always has (or ways we've always allowed Him to), but in new ways that do stretch our faith. When I look at those scared, faithless disciples in Matthew, I also jump ahead to the book of Acts and see the fearless, confident disciples, and those that had also joined them in faith. The men that declared Christ to the Jews and Gentiles, preached of God's grace, called for repentance, and healed people of their diseases and even demon possession. There are multiple counts of disciples getting thrown in jail, beaten to near death, and even martyred. The faith of the men and women in the book of Acts is the kind of faith that believes the Lord can do anything, as He shows and declares countless times in Scripture.
So, like the disciples, may we allow God to grow our faith in ALL areas of our lives. Yes, we should continue to pray for an increased faith, but also don't miss the opportunity when God answers that prayer.