“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
This is my absolute favorite verse in all of scripture. It has given me the proper perspective in all the hard times I go through. There are two perspectives in every circumstance, the positive and the negative. I want to spend some time in this post to get personal and relate some tough times I have experienced and how I made it through. Sometimes I had the right perspective, sometimes I did not. I pray that this helps everyone who is reading this and going through tough times to look for good. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything, that is worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:4-8.
When in my 20s, I was going to a church in Homestead, FL called Selah Christian Fellowship, formerly the Rock Church. I had attended there since 1978 and loved it. The Pastor of this church was a true man of God. He loved God and His people, and it was the first time I had experienced a church guided so much by the Holy Spirit. I grew by leaps and bounds, and my relationship with God was better than it had ever been. Then in 1985, the Pastor asked for a one-year sabbatical for personal reasons, and it was granted. He had asked a friend to stand in for him during this time, and He came and, in essence, pulled off a coup and took over the church. There were many things said that I knew for a fact were out and out deception, and I had documentation to prove it. I disagreed with the new leadership and was eventually voted off the deacon board. In 1986, I took a new job out of the area, and because of what I had experienced at Selah, I refused to go to church. I was disillusioned by what had taken place there. I focused so much on the wrong done to the former Pastor, as well as the dis-ingenuousness of the leadership, I told myself I would not leave Christ, but I had no use for His people. It took six to eight months for me to go back to church again.
Sometime later, I saw the former Pastor of Selah Christian Fellowship. He had started a new life and would eventually start several new ministries which focused on in-depth teaching of the scriptures, reaching many more people than could have been reached in a single church in Homestead. God used these circumstances to reach more people through a man who loved God and His word.
Another negative sequence of events started with the terrorist attacks of September 11. My family and I were on vacation in Williamsburg VA when my son runs to our room and tells us that a plane ran into a building in New York. I thought he was joking with us, but when I turned on the news, I found he was not. I owned my own computer consulting company then, White Rider Consulting, Incorporated and was on a long-term contract with a fleet leasing company in Alpharetta, Georgia. Due to uncertainty, they canceled most of their computer projects including the one I was working on and as a result, I was without work in March of 2002. I started my company in 1997 and had been without work for no more than a week before this time, so I assumed I would be able to find another client fairly quickly. However, I could not, and found myself without a client until January of the next year. During this time, God gave me unbelievable grace. I was not worried, because I knew that I knew that God would take care of us. I ended up laying myself off along with my wife, allowing us to receive unemployment.
However, this was nowhere near enough to subsist on. But God performed a miracle by providing assistance from many people in our church and elsewhere, most anonymously. We painted several houses and a Chiropractor’s office. I went to school for my insurance license and attended a thirteen straight day boot camp to get my certification on a popular database software used by many corporations, figuring with this I could get a contract. However, so many people were laid off due to 9/11 that no company would bring anybody in without at least five years’ experience. In January, I received a contract through White Rider with a Fortune 500 company doing database and web development. Because I had received my certification, even though they did not use the same database software, I got the contract due to the knowledge garnered from this class. However, it was a third of my normal billing rate, short of what was needed, but more than nothing. In August of 2003, I was asked to become a full-time employee with my former Fleet Leasing client.
During these turbulent times, I had the faith and grace to trust God completely. I have no idea how He did it, but we were able to pay most of our bills every month. Some of our debts went unpaid, but we had a roof over our head, food on our table, lights, gas, and water. We could not afford to do anything else but live, and that was OK. However, the best part of this story is our whole family, my wife Linda, myself and our two children Christiaan and Lauren learned to trust completely in God for everything. Our relationship with God improved exponentially and we grew closer and tighter as a family. The kids were able to keep up their extra classes such as dance, art, and piano by bartering with the teachers to clean their houses and the dance studio in exchange for lessons. They worked together and when additional help was required, Linda and I added our time. God worked for us in ways that would not have happened if things had continued as they were. I was making a good amount of money before I lost the contract, and we began to trust in that rather than Him. We saw this, almost from the beginning, no doubt a message from God to us. Even though it was tough, it was also a beautiful time I would not trade for anything.
These two stories show God’s work in very difficult situations, the first where I focused on the negative, and the other where I focused on the positive. However, both show that He was at work even though I could not see it. In the first case, God showed me that men were not perfect, and neither was I. How could I condemn all Christians for the actions of a few. If I would have had the proper perspective, I would have realized it was my responsibility to forgive and forget, rather than hold on to my hurts and anger, separating myself from my brothers and sisters in Christ, and sowing the seeds of bitterness that took some time to root out. In the second case, I had the proper perspective, knowing “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. And I also trusted in what David said, “I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25. God proved himself over and over, and my family grew closer to God in the process. He showed us how much He loved us, and how we could trust Him no matter what. We never had any reason to doubt Him, and we were so much more thankful for much less than we had before. He showed us that things were not the end, but merely a means to serve Him. Our focus changed from a materialistic mindset to one that saw what was truly important, God, family and friends, joy, and peace.
My son Christiaan exhibited the idea of good coming from tough times at an early age. When he was around four years old, he was being terrible and would not behave. He was talking back to his mother and was more defiant than we had ever seen him. My wife then gave him a paddling, letting him know that he was acting badly and his behavior was unacceptable. She prayed with him, asking God to help him with His behavior problem. She then left his room, and several minutes later he came down and told his mother “Thanks for spanking me, I really needed that.” He then was good the rest of the day. He thanked his mother because out of the discipline given, he saw a good that came out of it, which was that he was able to stop disobeying his mother. If only I could have learned that at such an early age.
I want to encourage everyone who is struggling with issues that on the surface look negative. Simply trust God and let Him have control and be sovereign in your life. God told us through Paul that all things work together for good to those who love God. He is our Father, and He will take care of us. It may not be the way we envisioned it, but we will be OK. He will bring good out of our trials. It may be difficult for us to see them; however, they are there. We must look for these good things and make them the focus of our thoughts and actions. This will help us to have joy and peace even through trying times. And this is how God wants us to live, not in confusion and torment, but in trust and faith in the God who said everything is OK, because good is the ultimate outcome for us who love Him.