Clearly, Satan is terrified of me - this past year he is bearing down hard on my finances and my heart. I won't run, and I will win.
As I wrote yesterday, in late 2012/early 2013, my business closed, an 18 month relationship ended and I lost all my personal belongings in a house fire. During that time I remember clinging to Psalm 66:12, "We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance." There are times in my life when I feel like I’ve got nothing left to give. There is no gas in my tank. No food in my fridge. I’ve got nothing left to say. My heart is hollow. It's hard to see great abundance when you feel you have nothing.
When I feel this way, however, life does not stop. The trickle of e-mails keeps dripping into my inbox. The phone keeps whining for attention. My children need to get to the next sports practice. My to-do list looks like 5,000 hungry people.
At such moments of emotional scarcity, I remember the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 with nutritional scarcity. It reminds me of a fundamental truth—that believing in Christ pivots not on how much I have or what I can give, but rather on how much God gives by multiplying what I have.
You know this story. After the news of the murder of his friend John, Jesus retreats to a lonely place. I imagine to mourn. But the locals heard that Jesus had come and the crowd was overwhelming and needy. Jesus healed with compassion. The crowd stayed late, and the disciples wanted to send the people away so they could get something to eat. But Jesus had another idea—“a teachable moment.” Jesus taught his disciples something fundamental about the nature of God. It is a lesson, if we take it seriously, that frees us to re-imagine the world, our life.
Jesus says, “You feed them.” The disciples looked puzzled. They have nothing. No food. No reserves. They stare out at a hungry mass of people that looks more and more like a hungry mob. The disciples respond, “We have nothing—only five loaves and two fish.” Jesus says, “Bring your nothing to me.” He blessed the fish and bread, gave thanks for it and proceeded to distribute food to the masses. As Matthew tells the story, “All were filled.” This story reminds me that sometimes Jesus is asking me to simply give my nothing—my little loaves and fishes—and then to stand back and watch Jesus teach a different kind of economy, an economy grown by God’s abundance. This is a challenging thought. The God of Jesus knows no limitation. Out of nothing, God creates something. The economy of the kingdom of God is abundant and knows no scarcity. My fridge doesn’t always have to be full for Jesus to take what I have and feed others. Jesus explained, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). I know God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. However, I also know that plan includes suffering.
Through suffering we learn to refocus our life on God. “The suffering You sent was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your principles.” (Psalm 119:71) So here's the big news! Suffering happens to reveal what your true values are. Do you think anyone that has achieved something great has had it easy getting to where they are in their moment of glory? NO! They have had to persevere in the “umph” section of triumph. They had to dig deep, find purpose and believe without evidence. They had to HOPE. They had to live courageously. Suffering holds you hostage and it demands your faith, your health, your determination, your belief in yourself or even your life to overcome it. Your reaction to suffering illuminates your true values and suffering should never betray your morals, ethics or beliefs. Suffering strips away the pretense and self-delusion and shows you what you treasure most and where your heart truly is. Whatever you are not willing to sacrifice is your greatest treasure, and wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Unhealed pain becomes your personality so before jumping into replacing, ignoring or avoiding the hard thing you are having to go through - think twice. Do you want to continue to choose the wrong solution and repeat the cycle? Do you want to become unworthy, cynical, bitter, angry, closed off, depressed? Oh my word, have I been there. Taking time to heal, get your financial footing or just give time enough time to put space between the suffering and your heart is wise and protects you from repeating the cycle. God has a purpose for all difficulty you encounter. Although this purpose is seldom obvious at the time, you have to remember that God does not want to destroy you through adversity. Rather, He wants to shape you for His glory and to conform you to the image of Christ. He does not send suffering to crush us; He sends it so that we triumph through it and trust Him more fully as we do. I read this once:
Training in obedience Refinement of your character Intimacy with your compassionate God and Savior
Understanding the hurt of yourself and others
Maturity for ministering to others
Perseverance in difficult times
Hope for the future
Give thanks in suffering. We don't have to give thanks for our suffering, we have to give thank in our time of suffering. Adversity gives you a chance to see yourself as you really are and to make corrections before it is too late. "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" (James 1:2-4).
Lacking in nothing.
Lacking. in. nothing.
Look at that promise. Friends, don't run away from the hard thing, the suffering, the pain, the loneliness, the grief, the loss, the mourning, the disappointment. Run right into it and let it fully engulf you. Above, I referenced how Jesus retreated to a lonely place and He gave thanks for what little he had. What a role model! Trusting God more deeply and more fully is the only way to gain perfect, complete and lacking nothing. As our trust in him grows, so do those promises in us. That the personality we want to become. Your five fish and two loaves are enough for him. Bring your nothing, meet him in that lonely place and watch Him work.
How can I help?