A: Dear Worn Out,
I am going to ask one of our other pastors to specifically answer you off-line in regards to your financial / career questions…however I wanted to take a moment to address your concerns about God’s presence and faithfulness and the struggle with discouragement.
First of all, circumstances are never a reliable indicator of the presence of God.
Secondly, it is a natural question to ask, “Where is God?” when there seems, from our point of view, to be no action by the Lord on our behalf. The book of psalms is filled with questions like that one. In fact the psalms are all about people being honest with God about how they feel and yet clinging to trust and choosing to praise Him even without circumstances being changed. I think about David who had been anointed king by Samuel at God’s instruction spending years running from the homicidally jealous Saul and yet working through the same questions you are asking. It all comes to a point in 1 Samuel 30 when the Amalekites raid Ziklag while David and his men are gone and take everything and everyone. David and his men were really upset, to the point where they blamed him for what had happened. David could have just walked away, or could have blamed someone else, but notice what he did.
“Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive… And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:4-6 ESV)
After David strengthened himself in the Lord, he took time to inquire of the Lord…then set off to obey God and God gave him the victory. The enemy of our soul wants us to be discouraged and quit or to take things into our own hands. Yet I find comfort in David’s process that we see here and in many psalms that I would summarize as follows:
- Take your emotions and questions directly to the Lord in openness and honesty (v.4). Be real with Him, yet process those emotions through His revealed character. See Psalms like 142-143, 37-43.
- Ask the Lord to search you and see if there is anything in you that needs to be repented of and surrendered to Him and then do so (Psalm 139:23-24). Adverse circumstances are not necessarily the result of personal sin, but it is wise to cover our bases and remove anything that might hinder us from receiving God’s blessing.
- Strengthen or encourage yourself in the Lord by focusing on His character and promises (v.6). There is great strength that comes from trusting that God knows how all the pieces of our lives will fit together in such a way that He will be glorified and we will be ultimately fulfilled. I, for one, am glad that I don’t have to understand everything in order to be strengthened in the midst of the circumstances of my life! The enemy only has to outlast us for a fraction of a second to defeat us. Sometimes the victory we win is not measured by forward progress, but by simply not quitting (2 Samuel 23:9-12). By the way, the verse in Philippians that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13) is written specifically in the context of Paul’s financial need!
- Inquire of the Lord and then do what He says with boldness and courage (v.8) trusting that He will bring the victory… at just the right time. It is true that God’s timing often does not match up with our timetable and yet who is in a better position to see the big picture? Sometimes it helps to get godly council along the way to make sure we are hearing form the Lord correctly (v.7-8), in this case David had Abiathar, and in other situations he had Nathan.
Finally, in addition to continuing to seek the Lord, I would encourage you to come and join in with the Biz Net group that meets here at the church every Tuesday morning from 7:00-8:30 am. They help those who are unemployed or underemployed improve their skills as well as providing prayer and emotional support. I would encourage you to call the church and set up an appointment to talk to a pastor about this issue as email/web is only so effective.
May you experience the presence and love of God today and be encouraged to live it for Him!