As I drove home from work, tension gripped the back of my neck and stung my shoulders. I gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckled fingers while an ever-present headache made me nauseous.
That night I awoke and worry took control of my thoughts. I couldn’t get back to sleep. In desperation I knelt on the bedroom carpet, crying, searching the Bible for a promise to cling to, and craving an audible voice from Heaven.
I’d been a Christian since my early teens, graduated from a Bible college, taught classes at church and in my home. We had recently moved to a larger house, bought a second vehicle and I had returned to work after being a stay-at-home mom. Then my husband’s job fell apart when a recession hit our region of the country and his company had to downsize. These changes shrank our income by 50%. My husband’s creased forehead and waning wit alarmed me. I worried by night and struggled to keep our home atmosphere upbeat by day. Secretly, I longed for simpler times when I stayed at home and my husband’s earnings not only provided an adequate income but kept him challenged and cheerful.
We prayed together about our needs but it seemed whatever we prayed for turned out the opposite. God must have something against me, I thought. I made mental lists of my sins and failures and repented of them. Nothing improved. I had experienced seasons when my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling but none were as long and difficult as this. Before I caught my breath from the last challenge, another careened in our direction.
Our oldest prepared for university, the transmission in the van blew, we increased our mortgage, and incredibly, my husband’s working conditions worsened. I wondered if God had forgotten my name. I knew the Bible said He never forgets His children, that our names are engraved on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:15,16). I couldn’t hold onto that promise because my circumstances were shouting, “God has forgotten you!”
Discouragement overwhelmed me as I knelt by my bed and waited for a divine message that never came. Finally, I stopped crying, stood by the window and announced – “If I never have another answer to prayer, never sense the Lord’s presence again, I know I belong to Jesus and what He’s done for me so far is enough.” As I climbed back into bed, my future appeared gloomy and debt-ridden.
I can’t say exactly when that black cloud lifted but looking back on that depressing night I see it as a turning point. I needed to declare my intention to stick with God no matter what happened. I needed to voice my devotion to Him even though He already knew my heart.
Our financial troubles continued but the panic and fear lifted. I began to sense the presence of God again. God hadn’t forgotten me. During this struggle, I heard a speaker at a women’s conference tell of a three-year period where not one of her prayers had been answered. That season of her life coincided with her husband’s desertion of the family. In comparison, my problems seemed small. Her honesty about doubting God’s love for her let me know that my experience wasn’t unusual.
I relied on my husband’s job and when it fell apart, I thought God had forgotten me. Instead, the Holy Spirit was at work in me – training, testing, prodding and pruning, forcing my faith to grow. The author of Hebrews writes,
“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share His holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10,11)
Our situation improved with hard work, patience and time. No matter how dense our darkness, no matter how lost and forgotten we feel, God won’t let the night last forever.