"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1-3 NLT)
This week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time out of town with the other community pastors at ACF. As we met for dinner, our host asked us to share one of our worst experiences, which turned out to be one of the best experiences. My first thought was, "Oh, great, bring on the awkward silence". After a pregnant pause in our conversation, we started to share.
I shared one of my worst experiences. At the end of 2008, the economy crashed and business owners began to panic. The owners of my company decided to hold back bonuses from the managers of our business. For about 4 or 5 of us, this decision meant we were going to lose about 40-50% of our 2009 income. My initial reaction was anger. We had just made our owners a lot of money. While I understood the uncertainty of the market going in to 2009, 2008 was the best year of our company and I expected to receive a bonus for my efforts. Going home and telling Celia that the bonus we were used to receiving wasn’t coming was tough.
I was very frustrated, felt taken advantage of and thought seriously about leaving a company where I had worked for 17 years. At the same time, I had grown up at this company and matured in my faith to a point where I was convinced my first responsibility at work was to allow the Light of Jesus Christ to shine through me. I knew the Lord had blessed my efforts and the relationships with the owners over the years. I knew my reaction to this bad news needed to look different. So I searched the scriptures looking for what I should do next and landed on these two verses:
"Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life." (Ecclesiastes 7:13, 14 NLT)
Immediately I knew God wanted me to stay, to walk through this time with my company and to do it well. The next 12 months were hard, but Celia and I learned much about the depending on God, the faithfulness and provision of God. In a short sentence, those 12 months changed us, becoming one of the best experiences of our lives. As I told this story again this week, I was reminded that the story isn’t really about me or Celia nearly as much as it is about God and His faithfulness to us.
Through sharing how the Lord brought us through our challenge in 2008, verse 3 of Psalm 40 happened again. My friends knew more about us and what the Lord has done in us. I heard their stories, too. We shared what God has done and were amazed at how He has moved in our lives. We left dinner closer to each other, with more capacity to trust in the Lord. Those minutes where we slowed down and listened to each others’ stories were the best part of our trip.
So my challenge for you, as the holidays race towards us, is to invest some time with family, friends or your small group. Sit down around a table, be vulnerable, share the hard events that have forced you to cry out to God. Tell how He lifted you out of the pit of despair and set your feet on solid ground. Share the new song He has given you to sing; you need to tell it and your friends and family need to hear it. Your story may just be the one that allows another to see they can put their trust in God.