What do you do when everything goes wrong and you’re feeling a little SOL? Like, where nothing seems to be going your way and your faith is waning because it feels like God is silent. You have no idea why you’re in the predicament you’re in or what you did to deserve such a hard life.
I mean, wouldn’t it be great to know that when something hard comes your way, that there’s a specific set of steps to take to get you through it? If all the messiness could somehow be cleaned up and put into a cute little package with a nice little bow? Or if you could just get down on your knees and pray to God to show you what needs to be done, and He answered! But that’s not how life works.
One thing I’ve learned from reading the Bible is that there is always answers but what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work across the board.
The Two Widows: 1 Kings 17:8-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7
Out of a husband, out of oil, out of luck – that’s where we find these two widows. With each of their stories, they were facing death through starvation and God met them where they were at. He sent a prophet to both of them, gave them some weird instructions to follow, they obeyed, giving the very last of what they had in order to serve and be obedient, and voila!, their prayers were answered. And not just answered but answered in abundance – there was plenty for them, their families, the prophets, and beyond.
What do you do when everything goes wrong and you give what feels like your very best and your very last but aren’t blessed in return? As much as I hate the answer, I think it’s just to be obedient. Do what God asks no matter how ridiculous it sounds, how scared it leaves us, or how much it may feel like he’s taking away the very last of who we are or what we have.
One widow gave the first piece of her last loaf of bread to a man she didn’t even know. The other widow had to go to her neighbors asking for jars… could you imagine? “Hey, I know we’re starving over here and there’s no hope in sight, but would you mind giving me any empty jars you have? I can’t pay you back because, well, I have no funds and my boys are about to be sold into slavery to help pay off my debt… But God said so, so could you help a girl out?”
But this isn’t just some nice story in a book… This is real life!
It’s easy to skim through the stories of these two widows and not be emotionally impacted by them, but if you sit in their misery, even for just a moment, can you imagine what life was like at that very moment that God came knocking? They were at the end of themselves and what they had to bring to the situation. There was nothing left for them to do. And if we ponder how that must’ve felt, I bet each one of us can feel the hopelessness that comes in those last, dark moments.
It actually reminds me of the time my husband and I found ourselves in an extremely dire financial situation. We had more bills than we had income, a whole lot more month than we had money, and we lived each day with a pit in our stomachs hoping that we wouldn’t overdraft our banking account. Still, the one thing we had been consistent with was tithing. By the world’s terms, it didn’t make any sense for us to give to our church when we couldn’t meet our own bills, but we knew that God intervened for us financially. Nothing else made sense! There was no way that we were able to meet our monthly bills with the amount of income we had coming in, yet every month, there it was! God always provided.
Or the time we added up all of the money we had spent on the adoption of our four boys and had a grand total of over $80,000. There was no way that money came out of our bank account or was met by donations and fundraising. Yet, there it was! Every single need met behind the scenes of a very trying time.
With tithing – we were asked to give and we did. With the adoption, we were asked to go through with it and to trust that He would provide, and He did. When Elijah asked the woman to go home, make bread and give him the first piece, she did and there was plenty more beyond that. When Elisha asked the woman to ask her neighbors for jars and to have faith and just keep filling them with oil, she did, and there was an abundance.
And with each of those circumstances, there was this formula to follow
There was an “ask”, there was follow through on what was being asked, and there were abundant blessings. When we are obedient in what the Lord asks, there will be blessing one way or another. Whether it’s that He mysteriously meets financial obligations, fills more jars then we know what to do with, or that He gives us strength to get through one more grueling day, the blessing always comes.
In all honesty, as I compared those circumstances to this experience with chronic illness, it just feels completely different. There is no “ask”. There is no formula to follow or money, time, or talents to give. And that makes it feel a lot like unanswered prayer. Like silence from a God who has promised to never leave me.
But that’s just a feeling. It’s not the truth.
The truth is, even in the midst of this disease that doesn’t have a cure and doesn’t even have one specific treatment that is guaranteed to improve my health, there is one thing He is asking of me. And that is to simply trust. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make this go away – and that’s the point. There is nothing that I can do. This isn’t something I can fix through my smarts, wits, or strength. Working two jobs, volunteering at church, or any other task will not make this go away. No matter how creative I try to be at figuring this out, there is no figuring it out. There is only complete and utter trust.
And wow is that the hardest thing to give! How do you trust God when He has literally taken away the skills and talents that make you who you are? When brain fog steals away your ability to think clearly and be creative… or when the physical strength you rely so heavily on seems to have vanished into thin air? When you’re on your last bit of flour and oil with no hope in sight – what do you do when everything goes wrong and there is no answer? How do you trust a God that allows these bad things to happen to good people?
You remember everything He has ever done for you or someone you know. From that time you found that $20 bill in your couch cushions at the very time you had no money to feed your kids to the time He made you late for work and in so doing, you avoided a car accident that you surely would’ve been in had you left on time.
You remember how He parted the Red Sea to bring his people to safety, rained manna from heaven, brought victory after victory… You ask Him to reveal himself to you and you pray like crazy until either your prayers are answered or you’re okay with His silence.
Good will eventually come, even if it’s not here on earth. And even though it doesn’t make sense here and now, eventually it will.