Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't throw in the towel, friends. There's more to the story.

A few years ago when my husband, Steve, lost his job, we knew things would be rough for a bit, but we really didn't foresee just how bad. It's one of those areas where you have a great savings built up and you know your okay for the time being. You have that cushion under you. But what happens when no job comes and that cushion is all but gone?

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

I have written about our struggles over the last two years. There have been many, as many of you can fully understand, being there yourselves. I think that is the whole thing, you can't really understand unless you have been there.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-3

My husband worked a few little jobs here and there working with friends. Then he became a meat cutter at our local grocery store. When a fifty year old man works for minimum wage, a wage that he has never worked for in his life, you know you have a keeper. He too was let go of this job. Turns out, you can give a job to a family friend and just ignore the job of another. Working in this little grocery store was amazing for my husband and me. First of all, we were humbled beyond words. Secondly, you learn you are not the only one struggling. You see others come in and line up with their food stamp card in hand. You see families purchasing only the necessary items to get by with. You see family after family struggle to just survive on a wage that doesn't pay the bills.

"Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2

As my husband worked at this little store, he began having deep conversations with those he worked with. They would share their own struggles. He met quite a few Christians, who like him, were trusting in the God of hope. He worked with women who were trying to put food on the table with working less than twenty hours a week. My husband began to have more compassion and grace for others.

"Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

When you are struggling you often feel like no one cares and no one understands. It's not easy for a man of fifty to go out and find another job. You get those who say, "Your over qualified". Which really means, "Your too old." After a while I saw the light beginning to go out in my husband's eyes. He didn't have a support group surrounding him. He did have me and our son, cheering him on all the way. Men, just don't seem to reach out to other men. I can tell you, this has been a very lonely time for my husband. He began to feel less of a man. Men define themselves much different than women. When a man is out of work, his soul is deeply wounded.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

During these two years or so, almost three, I sat and helped my husband fill out application after application. One day while I was searching on the Internet, I came across a company hiring. A company, neither of us had ever heard of before. Later, after my husband was busy, I filled out an application for this company. It is this very company that my husband will begin working for this Saturday. Can you believe it? God is always at work! I had no idea, but God sure did. I believe He directed me to that company and He too, directed that company to my husband. The owner of the company, my husband's boss, asked him to lunch today. I can tell you, that has never happened to my husband before. This man said, "I would like to take you out to lunch and meet you. Everyone just keeps talking about what kind of man you are." This blew my husband away.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As my husband told them, he knew he couldn't find a job because of his age, they replied, "We want older, more mature people working for us. We can depend on them." Finally, after all this time, my husband will be working in an environment where people respect him and make him feel as though he is valued.

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." 1 John 3:1

Don't we all want to feel valued? So many times we just feel like giving up. We feel like throwing in the towel. Friends, the story isn't over yet. There is more to our story than yesterday. We have a God who sees up ahead and sees exactly what we need. I think during these two years my husband has become a better man. The man God is creating him to be. He has learned to let go of that pride that often holds us back. My husband is a quiet man. He doesn't like to open himself up to others very easily. I think there is a fountain there that will erupt.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-9

I respect my husband in such great ways. I am proud to stand beside him. As women we find it easier to share and bond with other women. It's a bit easier to open up and let it all pour out with those we trust. My husband is from that generation where you don't show emotion and you sure don't share your hurts and frustrations. You just deal with them. Can you too relate? Men have to get over that pride thing and let go of trying to be the tough one. That is a no win situation. I have seen anger come from holding it all in and a river of doubt flow from the depths of a man not allowed to show pain.

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

As women, as wives, we need to be there for our husbands in the same way we want them there for us. We are to cheer them on. Lift them up and encourage them in every way. In other words, our husbands need us as much as we need them. We must learn each others love language and learn to communicate with one another in ways we can understand.

"And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

In praying for my husband, I didn't just pray for God to give him a job. I prayed that he would grow and become the man God is calling him to be. I prayed for God to fill him with strength and allow him to understand his worth is not in what he does, but in who he is in Christ. I prayed God would fill him with joy and open his heart, creating in him a new creature, who would see all God has for him. I prayed our marriage would strengthen and I would have a better understanding of who my husband is.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

I have learned so much through this time of struggle. Our struggle isn't over by a long shot. More struggles will come, but as they do, we have learned to rely upon God. Trust in Him and believe all things are possible. He met each and every need that came. We never went hungry and we never lost a thing. God not only provided for us, but He protected us. He covered us in His grace.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Those struggles that do come, we now know, no matter what is ahead, we can not only make it, but overcome each one with Christ. As long as we keep our eyes upon Him, there is nothing that can hold us back. When doubt creeps in, I remind myself that Christ is no longer on the cross. He overcame death for me.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10

Life is not in how much money we make, what kind of car we drive, where we shop or how big our home is. Life is not about material gain. Life is so much more. It's about love and hope. It's being content in all things and finding God in all things. I have found Him in places I never imagined. On those days we wanted to give up, God gave us strength and courage. You learn to accept those things, those situations you cannot change, and you turn to God for motivation to keep smiling and choose to see goodness. Every moment is a choice. Our attitude, that outward flow of emotion comes from deep within. We gotta do some soul searching and let go of all those things holding us back before we can truly find joy.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

There is a truth in joy. Joy is abundant when we let go and let God. Going through all our family has seen has only made us stronger. We have got to see God in motion. If we place our self worth on things we can acquire in this world we will never find real joy. We seem to place our self worth on what others think and say about us. Friends, we gotta let that go. It doesn't matter what another says about you. At the end of our life, it will not be those we go to church with, those friends we grew up with, nor will it be our co-workers standing before us. We will see Christ Jesus face to face. In the end, it is what He thinks of us that matters. Many times others only see what they want to see.

"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." John 15:16-17

No matter your struggle, you have a God who has known of your past, sees who you are today and knows what He has for you tomorrow. Get this, He still loves you! Don't define who you are by the struggle before you. Each day we face situations. Some created by us, some created by others. Some we can work out and some we can't fix. Believe and trust in the God who through each situation creates opportunities for greatness. We must be bold in our faith! Step out of that comfort zone. Move out of that box. Get way out of your circle and then, you will see just how big God really is! Don't miss out on today, because your in fear of tomorrow. He will open doors for you that would have never been possible if not for the struggle that led you there.

"But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

We are a work in progress. That progress in our walk takes time. Don't look at it like a sprint, but as a journey. Friends, our journey isn't over until He calls us home. In the meantime, there is much to do and do much we must. God can't do His thing through us unless we are willing vessels. That means letting go of self and surrendering to Him.

"And not only that, but we also glory in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5


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