Over three decades ago, I was part owner of a business that failed after nine years of operation. Nine years is a career to a 32-year-old. By the time the end came, Ann and I had two young boys and a mortgage.
Businesses don’t die in a day. Like a small dark spot on your body that grows into a fatal melanoma, the earliest signs of bankruptcy are easy to ignore and leave untreated. Anyway, young businessmen naturally think things will turn around.
But in our case, the die was cast. Any objective analysis of our financials would have shown that poor sales, bloated overhead, low inventory, severe undercapitalization (a fancy word for having spent all the money we could get our hands on), and general business ignorance is a combination that can only lead to one end. In fact, we had an excellent accountant, and I’m sure he made us aware of all these things. But what do you do? Well, you keep on plugging until there’s nothing left to plug.
The dying process took about a year – a hard year and one that I still blame for the occasional bad dream that awakens me with a feeling that something terrible is impending, and I have no way of stopping it.
It was sometime near the end of the end when our household bank account got down to next to nothing. I’m sure the balance was less than $20, probably less than $10. But thankfully our bills were paid. But how could we survive the month?
As I remember it, we were down to a jar of peanut butter, a few crackers, half-a-dozen eggs, a few slices of bread, and a partial box of Rice Krispies.
One evening I heard a knock on the front door. It was a lady from our church holding two sacks of groceries. Margaret (not her real name) was a single mother with a young daughter. Her divorce had been messy and protracted.
I invited her in, but she declined. She stood in the doorway and handed me the sacks. Then Margaret said something that I’ll never forget. She spoke her encouragement with a simple introduction: “I want to tell your something.” Then, as if sharing a deep truth that I could have never known at my age, she said: “This will not last forever. It will end.” She was right.
The end came, but it took a while longer. And since God was not finished with me, and still isn’t, there were other difficulties around the corner.
But even in the midst of it all, there were seasons of deep prayer, middle-of-the-night sessions of searching and finding hope in God’s Word, a believing wife, and the encouragement and fellowship of Christian friends – some of whom had already been down the road of failure.
Especially in our day, it is easy to justify our annoyance and petty disappointments when circumstances don’t cooperate with our own personal peace and prosperity. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy? I think the TV preacher said that.
Christian reader, nothing could be further from the truth. His loving goal for your life is far greater than today’s happiness.
Breathe this in as deeply as you can because you’ll need it every day of your life: God’s sovereign purpose is not our comfort, but our sanctification. He is determined to make us more and more like Jesus until we see Him face to face.
That despicable boss, disappointing financial downturn, rebellious teen, and the bitter betrayal are not evidences that God has abandoned you; they are proof that He has not.
How else could He say in James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
If all that raises more questions than it answers, maybe the poetry of John Newton, best known for penning the words of “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” will help. His words below are titled “I Asked the Lord.”
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low
Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith’
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”