Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich.
Give me just what I need.
If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you;
if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name.
Yesterday at church, the pastor preached on the ideas of “expansion” and “contraction” in the Christian life. He talked – in part – about the usefulness of times of difficulty (contractions) in our lives. One way is that difficulty has a way of drawing us closer to the Lord than we typically are in times of great ease and prosperity. During times of ease (expansion), we tend to fall into the trap of feeling that we have accomplished that circumstance in our own strength, and that same strength will empower us to remain in the comfortable circumstance. Obviously, as self-reliance increases, reliance on the Lord will decrease. Intellectually, Christians (should) know that it should never be the case that we stop relying on the Lord to supply our daily needs – one day at a time. But does it really ever play out practically? And for how long?
Yesterday evening, we had our small group meeting, at which we discussed the morning’s sermon. One question asked how close we felt to the Lord during times of contraction versus times of expansion. One person in the group said that they are going through a relatively good time right now, and don’t feel terribly close to the Lord. They mentioned that a few years ago, there was a particularly difficult period. During that time, they felt much closer to Him than they do now.
I answered this question from the other side of the coin. I have had financial and job stress for a little over a year now. Month after month, God has sustained me in different ways: a large tax return; a couple of roommates at different times; friends who allowed me to eat with them; benevolence from the church; Christmas presents of household necessities; and more. I have also been working, but just that income has not been enough to cover my expenses.
There have also been some personal difficulties: disappointment with my current work situation; learning how to navigate being an HSP; transitioning from one church to another; experiencing loneliness on various fronts. All of these things have kept me pressed close to the Lord, as I try to figure out what in the world is going on with my life.
I have experienced great joy and closeness, because of the trust that I have had to exercise lately. As part of my answer, I also said that I hope that God will allow me the chance to trust in Him and depend on Him, even when I’m not struggling so much financially. In other words, I hope He won’t leave me without gainful – and meaningful! – employment for too much longer, just in an effort to keep me close. (I’m sure there’s some faulty thinking on my part, but it’s just what I hope.)
Already this morning, I had a chance to “prove myself.” And almost failed. Not even 24 hours later!
This morning, I woke up feeling a bit ill. So, I went back to sleep for a few more hours. (Okay, there are some perks to just working part time.) Suffice it to say, I got several hours of sleep in. When I finally got up, I knew that I needed to spend some time in prayer. My first thought was something like, “Well, I’m not in any particular distress right now and don’t have any new need. So, I guess I don’t need to pray.”
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit immediately reminded me of yesterday’s sermon and discussion on contraction and expansion, closeness to and distance from the Lord. Thankfully, I was convicted enough to hit the ground and pray. Admittedly, I did not pray for a considerable amount of time, but I did pray.
I praised the Lord for being who He is.
I thanked him for His free gift of salvation through Jesus the Christ.
I tried to bring to mind any un-confessed sin. And confessed it.
I tried to recall the prayer requests of loved ones.
Let me be honest: I’m a very lazy pray-er. And I do get distracted easily. Praying “on-the-go” suits me more. Of course, prayer is not really about what suits me, and I would do well to remember that.
In any case, I’m grateful for the somewhat non-dramatic wake-up call that God gave me today. I don’t want to ever be in such a good condition that I forget my God. When I do find myself in more positive circumstances, my prayer is that I will continue to pray. That I will continue to seek the Lord’s face. That I will continue to acknowledge that it is all from Him and all belongs to Him. That I will always find reasons to cry out to Him – even when my heart is not heavy with tears and stress.