My Need and God's Generosity
Here's a curious thing that I find in myself: the more I experience the provision of God, the greater is the temptation that I feel to stress over doing enough to take care of myself. The more I've been given, the more I feel like I should be able to justify why I deserved it.
|Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
This point was illustrated (in case I needed illustration to convince me) when my husband suddenly lost his job yesterday. Why am I so stressed about this? I wondered this morning as my mind spun with schemes of how we can make up the gap in our income. After all, a year and a half ago I moved back from China and had absolutely no idea what job I'd find. I rented an apartment and settled into a community before I found a job, took a month to breathe and begin to reacclimatize to life in the US, and ended up with a job (at Sheetz) and a half (with Write Your Way Academy) and everything, everything, that I needed was provided for.
Immediately, my heart begins making excuses for the worry that it wants to justify.
- But now we have a house.
- But then I was just getting back from China.
- We have bills we have to pay, and there are three of us in this house who need heat and electricity and water.
- I had planned to have a season of rest and transition when I came back from China. We weren't planning for this.
They're reasonable enough. They make sense.
But they aren't reason for worry. Nothing is.
Because the truth is, I have a Father who knows all of my needs (well before I'm aware of them) and has always, always met them. Sometimes that provision has come through a friend who let me live with them. Sometimes it's come through me having a job and working hard and making enough money to pay the bills I have. Sometimes (for much of my life!) it came by way of my dad, who worked hard and has a lot of talent for handling money. Sometimes it has come through the long-term generosity of many, many friends who're willing to invest in the ministry that God had called me to. Sometimes it comes through random people deciding to give us copious amounts of food/clothing that fits perfectly. Sometimes (routinely) it comes through the cultural tradition here of people putting things they no longer want by the curb so that others can pick them up. (Things we've acquired this way since our wedding include a couch, a rocking chair, a sewing machine, a shelf, a table saw, and even impractical, unnecessary things that we had recently said we wanted, like old windows for a crafting project.)
|Photo by Klara Avsenik on Unsplash
The last few weeks, I've been listening to Proverbs. Every time I go through that book, I am struck by the logic of God's economy. These wise sayings counsel hard work and prudence with the resources that we have, much as I would expect anyone giving sound financial advice to, except in one area. Over and over and over and over, they tell us that It is good to be generous.
How that works out mathematically is beyond me, and I was no slouch at math.
One person gives freely, yet gains more;
another withholds what is right, only to become poor.
A generous person will be enriched,
and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water. (Prov 11:24-25)
The one who despises his neighbor sins,
but whoever shows kindness to the poor will be happy.
Don't those who plan evil go astray?
But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness...
The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker,
but one who is kind to the needy honors Him. (Prov 14:21-22, 31)
Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord,
and He will give a reward to the lender. (Prov 19:17)
It's like all of the fairy tales are true and the king disguises himself as a beggar to discern the hearts of his people. Only there is no deception here except what we do to ourselves; He told us over and over again (from the very beginning) that all of His people bear His image, that we never encounter a person who doesn't reflect Himself.
|Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash
So here's the truth that my soul needs to remember -- and that maybe you do too? -- the truth that I have to return to again and again, tracing my fingers over and keeping in my pocket so that I can close my hand around it when anxiety rises within me: I am a child of the King who speaks universes into being. A sister of the Redeemer who did not flinch from giving up His own life to ransom me. A dwelling of the Spirit who raises the dead to life.
The story of history is still playing out, but the ending is written, and all of my needs have been provided for. The God who loves me is able to do more than all I can ask or imagine.
So I am given the courage and desire to do the next thing, to not grow weary in doing good -- whether that is teaching middle and high school students how to become better at communicating through writing, or meeting with people to discuss how they can take action to bring the kingdom of God to their communities, or doing laundry, or cooking meals.
As Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth,
"...everything is yours -- whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come -- everything is yours, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God." (1 Cor 3:21b-23)
I don't have to justify why I deserve anything; everything that I have is a gift because of who -- because of whose -- I am, not because of what I've done.