Imagine with me a situation where you are praying diligently: someone you love has a potentially terminal illness, there’s a tenuous job situation, or even a situation where there is a political candidate that you feel strongly for or against. I have been there, many times. Early on in our ministry my husband was serving as a pulpit minister. I will spare you the details, but our job security began to rapidly deteriorate (through no sin or false teaching on my husband’s part.) At the time we had three precious girls, and our son was less than a year old. We lived in a parsonage, so if my husband lost his job we would not only lose our only source of income, but quite literally the roof over our heads.
I began to pray as I had never prayed before. Constantly in my mind I was petitioning our Heavenly Father not only for our family, but for the congregation we were serving. Daily I would pray, cry, and love my babies. As hard and as scary as it was, I knew it would be OK. My husband and I were truly trying to serve God to the best of our ability and glorify Him. In fact, my husband had left a promising career in the medical field to enter the ministry. We had literally given up everything for the ministry, and people were growing, we could see it! I knew that God’s will would be for us to be blessed through this time of persecution, I knew that God would want the congregation to come through strengthened and united. So as I poured my heart out to God day after day, I knew it would work out. I had faith!
Then my husband was fired. We received no severance package. We were given 30 days to be out of the house with our precious children. Beyond that, the congregation we had been serving was fractured. In that moment, my faith was shattered. How had this happened?! I had prayed about this! Why would God make our family go through something so horrible?! What good is prayer if my world shatters around me?! What good is having faith in God if He doesn’t come through for us when it matters most?!
Sisters, over the next six months my faith grew in ways I didn’t know were possible. I found myself in the shoes of the father in Mark 9:24 crying out, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” I found myself in the shoes of Job, broken and asking God “why!” My husband and I reached out to other ministers and their wives for counsel and guidance. We knew our hearts had become hard through this trial, and we continued to study, to pray and ask God to remake our hearts.
Through this process, I began learning (I say began, because I’m still a work in progress!) that up until that point, I really did not have faith in the Almighty God, I only had faith in myself. I had faith that, as long as I was trying to serve God, His will and mine would be the same. I had faith that as long as I was doing my best for the Lord’s church, things would go my way. If I am honest, I had faith in earthly rewards for faithful Christians.
You see sisters, biblical faith is what is demonstrated in Jeremiah 24:14, when Jeremiah is surrounded by his people, the Jews, screaming at him to die, and he responds with, “But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.” Biblical faith is what is seen in Esther 4:16 when Esther agrees to go before the king and states, “If I perish, I perish.” Biblical faith is the example we are given by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:16-18 when they are about to be thrown into the fiery furnace and they reply to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Biblical faith is an “even if” faith. Biblical faith embraces Isaiah 55:8-9 and understands that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and we may not always understand in the moment. Biblical faith acknowledges and understands that God can bring about whatever result, but even if that result is not what I feel is in my best interest at the time, I will continue to faithfully serve Him. I do not for a moment think John felt it was in his best interest to lose his head in Matthew 14:10. I don’t for a moment believe that those who have gone before us who suffered imprisonment, floggings, stoning, stabbings, being sawn in two and living out of caves (Hebrews 11:36-38) believed that, in the moment it was in their personal best interest. However every one of these individuals had an “even if” faith, and because of this tremendous faith they are still glorifying God today!
In the years since this spiritually traumatic job loss, we have encountered other difficulties. There have been other painful moves, and even the loss of a child through miscarriage. Yet what was once a soul-shattering event has become a family bond. Our kids frequently make comments that some ministers are Peter (relatively stationary) and some ministers are Paul (always bouncing around.) We have come to love our Paul and the beautiful, unique experiences that come with the ministry path God has laid before us, even when it is painful at times. We have also been able to look back on every single work we have had and name life-long friends, and see that God was able to use us to evangelize and strengthen His people while we were there.
So no, God’s will is certainly not always my will. I don’t always understand the way He works or what He is accomplishing at the time. Yet in looking back He has always cared for my family. Through the brethren my children have never gone without a bed at night. We have never missed a meal. We have always had a new chance to serve Him and our brethren. Even more importantly: He has already sent His Son. It was not in Jesus’ best interest to come to earth, and as the Creator be crucified by the Created. Yet He did it. He did it for me. He did it for you. And in return I will do my best to serve Him, even if.