I have been working through the book Joy Starts Here with my wife and some people from church. Although it is inspiring, this same time I have faced the very real fact that I am not earning enough money to provide for my family in this moment.
I work, I look for work, I wait for payment and for customers to come through. It feels like nothing works.
My wife sent me a link to an article on how to take time to enjoy Immanuel, God with us. While going through the exercise, I was to take time to envision moments with God that were positive or even just moments alone that were peaceful. What came to mind was something I totally did not expect.
The images were all from areas where I have the most pain right now.
Money: I am worried sick about our finances, and the images that came to mind were when I was able to pay the paintball fees for friends in school, when I set up my first etrade account in high school, when I would promptly save everything my grandparents sent me rather than buy presents for Christmas/birthdays.
Discipline: I am afraid that God is arbitrarily putting me in positions either outside of His love or deliberately thwarting my success for some religious reason. The image that God brought to mind was me being disciplined by my father and the warm embrace of his arms afterwards. Another image was when I spent 3 hours refusing to write sentences after school for disrupting class the day before Thanksgiving. My father walked in and told me I could finish the sentences or take a spanking at home; bored out of my mind, I opted for the spanking. It was the lightest spanking I ever received as I saw the heart of a man willing to support my teacher but also understanding I had already put myself through more punishment than I merited (3 hours alone because I talk too much…).
As I began to pray through the times in the last 6 years of marriage that my wife and I have faced overwhelming financial distress, I began to see that God was with us in all of those times. His discipline is always loving and always followed by intimate touch and positive interactions.
And then He showed me something even more important: the moments I have faced were neither a direct result of my work nor of the world overwhelming and overpowering me. I am not stuck and I am not defective. God thwarted me.
God took away my success for reasons known fully only to Him.
But, still He provides.
The chastisement of the Lord is gracious, as His adopted child I cannot act outside His presence. The hound of heaven will pursue me to the gates of hell and break me with a rod of iron because He cares more for my soul and my loving relationships with others than any other thing.
This is joy and peace combined: that I can rest in God’s love and act in consistent love towards others no matter the consequences the world brings against me.
Because if God is for me, though the world may slay me, what can I fear?