So I was asked me to give ‘talk’ about what God has been doing in my life this past spring to a women’s Bible study. But after praying about what to share for several weeks nothing really jumped out to me. I keep asking God for ideas of something appropriate and a platform to express it that would be meaningful to a crowd but also from Him. Even sitting down to write the talk I didn’t really have anything more than a sentence, but instead of freaking out or worrying I was calm because I have come to trust that God has me, even if I can’t see how in the moment. This trust is what I decided to talk about….it’s been a journey of learning, what I call, trust without evidence.
One area I’ve had to learn to do this is in the area of finances. My husband and I are self employed and, as some of you who are self employed know, that means you don’t always know what your paycheck will be. Sometimes its high, sometimes it’s low, sometimes it’s none. It took me years of living on the edge of my sanity, worrying and wringing my hands, wondering how we were going to make it, how we were going to eat or pay our bills, but God always came through. I mean always. Despite some seriously crazy bad financial decisions and mountains of debt we never defaulted on one loan or failed to pay one bill. That was all God. Even though it’s easier now to not really think about it, every once and a while we have really hard month and I have to remind myself….God has never let me miss a payment and if He starts now, it will be ok, because He has planned that too.
Another area I’ve had to learn to trust God without assurance, is with my husband. He is a commercial fisherman and we’ve spent many, many months apart. 1) 3 year stint had us apart for 8 months every year. Three cycles of 4 months together and 8 months apart. That separation, combine with the huge risks of his job and the lack of ability to communicate when he is out to sea. I’ve buried him and become a widow about a thousand times in my head. I’ve had to come to the place in my heart to believe that if he dies it would be God’s mercy to him. To get to die in the wildness of creation vs dying in a hospital room from the other thing that is most likely to kill him a childhood kidney disease. If he ever becomes resistant to his daily steroid dose, he will probably die. So I’ve had to let him go and trust God, that no matter if Reuben lives or not, He has me and I would be ok.
Then God asked me to trust Him with my very life and the lives of my kids, when He put an unshakable desire in my husband for us to come live with him on a fishing boat in AK. It sounds interesting, right? Living on a boat in Alaska, going out on fishing trips to catch cod or salmon. It sounds like an amazing experience, like something my kids would get sooooo much out of, like an adventure!!!!!! (these are all the things people have said to me when I tell them what we were doing) But when you are out on the water and a storm rises making the wind blow up 20-30 waves and your 90 year old wooden boat doesn’t just rock back and forth or side to side but in a circle with everything in the galley flying off the walls and random rouge waves crashing against the hull in unexpected places making it sound like your boat will split in two, with your children crying and screaming, terrified and all you can think about is the life raft and those survival suits that you must force the kids into if the boat starts to go down because the water could kill them if they were exposed too long!!!! That doesn’t sound quite as great, right? But when I complained to God about all of this and the fact that I didn’t really want to be in this small isolated little island town where EVERYTHING is such a chore – from outrageous food prices, to making sure your boat batteries don’t die because you could sink, to making sure your water tanks are always full so you didn’t run out in the middle of dishes or a shower, to dealing with the toilet waste, to making sure your stove doesn’t die because, even though it’s summer, you still need it to keep warm, to having to beg around to a bunch of low-down mean fishermen for a place to do laundry because you can’t afford the only laundry mat on the island, where all your showers are only lukewarm and you slip on the ice and break your right wrist while still having to haul everything from your car (groceries, kids, everything by yourself because your husband is out to sea) to 1/4 mile walk away to where your boat is parked….. when I complained to the God of the universe about why in the world I was there, I felt like He said “because you are more flexible, Danielle. You are able to deal with all of this without breaking and it’s not only about you.” He didn’t tell me the answers to everything I really wanted to know and he didn’t make me any promises, he just told me I could deal. In that moment, it didn’t feel like I was able to deal and it certainly didn’t get any easier…in fact it got a whole lot harder, but through it all I kept those words of God close to my heart” because you are more flexible” and even though I didn’t really understand what they meant, they did comfort me…and I got to learn an even deeper trust of my Savior because when you pull back the niceties of life and the thread of your survival is laid bare, the choice of Christ is so much easier AND so much harder. Easier because you could seriously die or someone you love could die any moment and if that happens, you are really going to need Him. Harder because if listening to Him gets you this uncomfortable then do you really want to keep listening?? But that treasured moment of surrender before a God that might let you die but still loves you so much is so powerful, that I know I can’t give Him up, even in that face of death, because He is mine and I am his. And really nothing else matters. ……Now, to live life after that experience has truly made it so much sweeter. Life now has so much more purpose and I’ve been able to cast away more easily the worldly cares and concerns for the sake of His design. I’ve been able to cling to the truth that God never wastes an opportunity. So often in the past, I’ve had the habit of thinking “I wonder what God is doing in this situation or that situation or in that person’s life or in that families lives and now the focus has shifted to me. When upsetting things happen to me instead of feeling offended or self righteous like I shouldn’t have to deal with this…I EVENTUALLY think…wow, God never wastes an opportunity…there is a reason this is happening to me and I’m going to try to pray and cling to Jesus and follow his lead. Sometimes the only truth I have in that place is “pain is God’s invitation for deeper intimacy with Him….so I’m going to accept this pain and press into Him.” Other times, hard situations help me see something I didn’t see before about myself or my sin or it gives me deeper understanding of what He is doing with me on my journey. Most of the time I just bumble around and try really hard to stay close to Jesus and give and receive His grace. It’s not easy.
So ya, it’s been a really hard last few years and God has stretched me and is still stretching me but instead of becoming bitter I’ve just decided that, with His help, I’m flexible and I can keep going where ever He leads me and even if I don’t see the next step, I can still pick up my foot, set it down, and trust there is solid ground underneath….. even if I don’t ever see it. He’s truly all I have. And in that I’ve been able to find a lot of joy and freedom. His kingdom really is upside down!