When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
-Luke 18:8 NASB
I lived the waning months of 2016 with more anxiety and fear than ever before. We were recently home from 13 years in China, and three factors conspired to create the perfect storm: our paychecks/benefits would end on December 31, I remained unsuccessful in my search for work, and I was the head of a family of eight.
Previously in my life, “Be anxious about nothing” had, for the most part, been a slap pretty easily delivered onto your face. I, with a personality bent towards “chill out, people, things’ll work out,” didn’t need a biblical command to help me get there.
Then in 2016, nothing, it seemed, was working out. A difficult adoption. An ended career. Transition home. But no home to land in while kids cried, “This isn’t home!” Looming unemployment. A difficult adoption. Suddenly things were “not working out” in what felt like very serious ways. And for panic-inducing long periods of time.
Anxiety grabbed me like it was looking for a new best friend. I couldn’t shake it. My brain never forgot the right statements, the right truths, or the right verses, but still I could not choke down fear. Not for long.
I quit writing in this blog. Went AWOL on social media (granted, not all that different from my normal). And concentrated on surviving. September, October November, December, falling into bed and with increasing frequency only able to say, “We made it through another day.”
I couldn’t imagine what The End might really be like if it actually came. I’d applied at the hardware store and at factories. I’d put in my name for pastorates in my own denomination, then in others. I didn’t even get a call back from the Diocese on my application to be their maintenance man. Weary from crying out to God and wondering when the answers were coming, I quit answering people’s “How are you?”s. Then I had to give that up and go back to saying “Fine” again. There are only so many burdens that acquaintances can help you shoulder. We’d been needy for so long we’d realized that even most friends cannot be bothered with the same troubles forever.
But there is a widow in Luke 18 who does not give up. Though she has no reason to expect anything from a judge who, quite self-consciously, neither fears God nor fears man, she persists. Keeps asking. The guy finally grants her request to get rid of her.
God, I dislike my reaction of you appearing to me as worse than this guy. What am I supposed to think when it says you will help “quickly”?
Finally, a year and a half after knowing we’d have to come home due to adopted kids, the unimaginable End arrived. Paychecks ceased and I learned just how much our company had been forking out all those years for great insurance (enough to add another decent used vehicle to the stable if you wanted to every couple of months). That burden now fell to us, for we had just found all applicable doctors after months of work (so no plan-switching just yet), and medi-shares designed for healthy families weren’t a viable option for ours.
And then… we didn’t die. Thanks to a few generous Christmas gifts from family, then three astonishing gifts of four figures each by overseas friends [thank you again Cassia, GTG men, and you-know-who: you guys get it!], we found our former monthly needs basically covered by other means.
Oh, just great. Now I’ve got to wait a whole ‘nother month to see how this plays out? How can I shout, ‘Look what’s happened to us!’ with Him stringing us along like this?
An idiotic reaction, to be sure, however fleeting.
Then I began to see the idiocy of worry as well.
What, my problems are truly that humongous that the God of the Universe has finally been stymied and cannot be counted on to pull through?
We had come home depleted and desperate for Sabbatical but instead had found ourselves living through the most frantic era of our lives. Granted, life with Everett would have been traumatic anywhere, any time, but what if the rest (the unemployment, the mysterious landing in a place that we are not from, the enrollment in good schools that our kids like and have not had to switch from so far)… what if all that was gift and I wouldn’t see it? I had been too incapable of trusting God so completely. It was too tempting to fear I was being passive, maybe lazy? Surely I could not expect the world to fall in my lap and just rest with no employment! How was I to know what kind of provision lay ahead?
I didn’t. Still don’t. But now that “the worst” had come to pass (oh, I know, life could get a lot worse), what good can I say my anxiousness did me?
Why not just choose to trust him, then? (Yeah, sounds easy from one’s chair.)
And so I have.
By the power of the Spirit, I’m no longer a slave to fear. And 2017—so far—has been a year without it.
Or income. Am I insane? Or am I finally reaching the heart-place he has been trying to get me to for months?
I’m still self-conscious about not wanting to live with my head buried in sand, but February, too, has seen us provided for. No big gifts, but lots of unexpected little ones, even groceries. We’re alive. Our family of eight hasn’t missed a meal. And—though we battle it back some mornings—we aren’t afraid anymore.
In the parable of the judge and the widow, the NIV includes the adjective persistent when Jesus asks his question about faith. First he asks three questions of the “C’mon, do you really think God is not going to pull through?” variety, and then:
How much of that kind of [the widow’s] persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?
-Luke 18:8 NIV
If the adjective were never-faltering or exemplary or unwavering I’d be sunk. But the word is persistent, and if it’s okay also to falter, and we don’t have to be out in front leading the pack all the time, if my faith can waver and I can ask hard questions in the low times… I’m still good. If it is persistence in faith He’s looking for, then I can take him at his word today even when I struggled to yesterday. He’s going to step in. He’s going to work justice. (How? I have no idea.) But Jesus says his Father is not going to drag his feet. I choose to believe it. I do believe it.
I turn 45 today, and those are my thoughts.