My wife and I LOVE Christmas. The food, the decorating, the snow (when it finally comes), getting to spoil our nieces and nephews, and most of all, the opportunity to celebrate the true nature of the holiday in the birth of Jesus. So as we met with our families for Christmas in 2020, you could feel the excitement and anticipation from everyone, as it would be our last Christmas as a family of two! We would be welcoming our first child in April. It was a buzzing holiday to be sure!
As we both returned to work following the new year, the excitement was still present, and baby name ideas were flowing left and right. My first day back was January 4. I walked into my home office (also the future nursery) to log in to my computer and email; no luck. Strange, I thought. I knew we had a company meeting scheduled first thing, but I thought I’d get some work done early. I contacted a few colleagues and learned they were also having trouble logging in. I chalked it up to some tech stuff and didn’t really consider it further.
When the meeting began, we were told we were locked out of the system until we had individual meetings with our supervisor. The waiting game began. Within the hour, I received a message from one of my supervisors asking if I was ready for my call, and we hopped onto Zoom with our Director of Operations.
“…Unfortunately, we won’t be keeping your position…” I don’t remember a whole lot of the conversation to be honest. I do remember after the call was finished, walking downstairs to tell my wife: “Well, I just lost my job.” It was one of those statements where you kind of laugh when you say it, as if to say, “This is a joke right?”
I was doing fine for a couple weeks, at which point the reality set in, and the following month or two for me were dark. I was incredibly depressed and completely unmotivated to do anything. I applied for a few jobs, but they didn’t lead to anything, and with our due date quickly approaching, I postponed the job search. I’d never been fired or laid off, so this whole experience was difficult to wrap my head around, especially with the poor timing of soon becoming a father. Also, I’d never had such difficulty finding a job (I’ve been very thankful for this in my life), which compounded my depression and sense of defeat. All this was tackling my pride head on; thus began a wrestling match with God and all the unknowns that were now flooding my mind: Why was this happening? At this moment? What am I going to do? What does this mean for me? For my family? For our daughter?!
God, how do I navigate all of this? God, where ARE you?
As I’ve reflected on my job loss and everything that has happened in the last 15 months, the Lord revealed three fundamental truths to me:
When things are going well—and according to our plan—it’s easy to get puffed up with a great sense of pride. If we allow this to grow to an unhealthy level, pride can turn into a nasty sin. In this case, we believe to possess such a level of excellence that we elevate ourselves to a position above others. It fixes our gaze on ourselves, instead of focusing it on our awesome God. The Pharisees serve as a great example of this throughout Scripture. Because of their position and knowledge, they often lifted themselves up and spoke down to those they felt were beneath them: “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others” (Matthew 23:5-7).
Those are Jesus’ words, and he even goes on to call the Pharisees hypocrites—not once, not twice, but six times! They even try to trick Jesus on multiple occasions to try and trap him in his own words so they could have reason to get rid of him:
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.”Matthew 22:15
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.”Matthew 22:35
“So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said…”Luke 20:20
They thought themselves smarter than Jesus—smarter than God. Sound familiar? These are just a few examples, but in every instance, Jesus overcomes their deceitful tactics. I don’t know about you, but when I see these prideful similarities to the Pharisees in my own life, it makes me shiver. Thankfully, we have hope and guidance in Scripture. Peter advises, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus tells us, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Rather than acting in a prideful way like the Pharisees, we should humble ourselves before our Creator, following the perfect example of Jesus.
- In what area(s) of your life do you notice pride rear its ugly head?
- What is the root of this prideful attitude? Comparison? Jealousy? Ego? Remember, to get to the roots, you have to dig deep…
- Tell God about it, and ask for his forgiveness.
God, I thank you for your grace and mercy. For the perfect example of your Son, Jesus, who you sent to die for us. I pray that if there is any pride in my life, the Holy Spirit would bring awareness to its ugliness, so that I may bring it to light and hand it over to you. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to remind me when the sin of pride rises to the surface, and to help me remain humble, focusing my gaze and my life on you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If I had to name only one way that I’ve recognized God move in my life (even though there are MANY), one major distinction of mercy and grace that I consistently reflect upon is his provision through all things. I often think that we take for granted the meaning behind our vocabulary, so first, let’s look at the definition of provision or to provide: “to make preparation to meet a need;” “to prepare in advance;” “to take precautionary measures.”1 As Christians, this should make us sigh in relief, don’t you think? Why? Because knowing God is the ultimate provider means that whatever tough situations we’re going through, or whatever might be coming, God is ready. We may not be, but God already knows. He knows what’s approaching and what we’re going to need (aside from himself) to get through it. On top of that, before we even experience what’s to happen, God has already set in motion his plan and our purpose: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). In my case, it was the birth of our first child that led me out of the valley of depression and defeat through God’s incredible blessing and provision. I felt a sense of purpose and grace in the moments of her birth, which has only compounded as time has passed as a dad. GOD KNEW. He knew what it would mean for me to become a father, and he set that in motion well ahead of me losing my job.
When God wants us to truly absorb a lesson or important takeaway, he hits it hard, so he doesn’t stop short with the blessing of provision. I won’t go into the details, but we struggled a bit financially after the birth of our daughter, and more often than I care to remember, we found ourselves in the “Are we going to be able to pay our mortgage?” panic mode. God’s grace and provision was exemplified through the generosity of our church, our family, and a couple of friends who I humbly reached out to when it was bad. Sometimes we didn’t know what we were going to do. God, in his awesome way, always provided. Still, he didn’t stop there (must be an important lesson huh?). My unemployment benefits were coming to an end, and my search for full-time work was not proving successful. Earlier in the year, through a mutual friend, I spoke with someone who owned a small business about a job, and at the time they didn’t have a need. I reached out, and they were looking to hire someone immediately. GOD KNEW. Still, it was only part time. Through some church connections, I learned of a second opportunity. I called my connection and was offered a second part-time job. Boom, boom. This was such a blessing of God’s provision at a time of financial uncertainty. A sigh of relief, indeed.
Perhaps you’re in a valley right now. If not, maybe one is coming—only God knows. But he has already set in motion a blessing from that walk in the valley. We should be encouraged by the verse above from Jeremiah 29:11. In it, God tells us (paraphrasing of course): “I got you; trust in me.”
Back in April, our pastor preached a sermon titled, “When God Isn’t There,” and one of his takeaways struck me deeply thinking back on these many acts of God’s provision. He said:
“You don’t have to understand the plan to trust the purpose.”2Andy Ziegenfuss
Read it again.
In a season of trial, we tend to only focus on what’s happening in the moment, especially when it’s something that isn’t part of our plan. It’s not natural for us to consider what’s on the other side, and we begin to question: Why is this happening? What should I do? How do I make it out of this? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but God does, because he always has a plan. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). You don’t have to understand the plan to trust the purpose.
God’s grace abounds and his provision is endless.
- Have you been in a “valley” of life? If so, reflect on:
- God’s provision during that time
- Your posture toward him at that moment
- Take 10 minutes this week to read Jeremiah 29:11 and pray for God’s hand over your future.
- Take another 10 minutes this week to read Proverbs 3:5-6 and pray for a trusting heart in God’s plan for your life.
God, you are our ultimate provider and overseer. I thank you and praise you for your heart for your children. When we experience valleys, we are so quick to try and take matters into our own hands. But you have a plan for us, God. You already know what will happen and what we need. I pray that in these moments, the Holy Spirit would help me look to you for guidance, for peace, and to just talk to you about what I need and what I long for. I know that you will always provide for me according to your plan and your purpose for my life. I pray that I would trust you. Thank you, God, for always providing, and for your Son, Jesus. In his name I pray, amen.
God speaks to us in many ways. Some of his methods are more obvious—like through prayer, worship, or studying his Word. Others, not so much—like the small opportunities over the course of our day to be patient, kind, generous, or slow to anger. However, there’s a correlation between these two groups. The more we practice those in the first, the more obvious those in the second become. Think back on times when you’ve been consistent in prayer or studying Scripture. I have no doubt you were more aware of God’s grace and presence, seeing and feeling him in the “mundane”—or those small opportunities from day to day. It’s no coincidence. But in the valleys of life—when we’re questioning “why,” when we feel alone and isolated, when we don’t know what to do or how to navigate the waters—God’s voice and guidance can seem nonexistent. We long for him to be near in these moments, and we often ask, “God, where are you?”
Referring back to the sermon my pastor gave (from PROVISION), he listed a second takeaway, and it’s one that I believe should become a daily reminder or mantra for us, as well as a battle cry when we feel the enemy constructing his lies. It’s this:
“Just because God is quiet, doesn’t mean he’s quit.”3Andy Ziegenfuss
Read it over, and over, and over again.
He is known by a thousand names, one of them is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” This may seem like an oversimplified method of understanding, but Scripture doesn’t always have to have a research paper behind a word or a phrase. As Christians, we believe his Word is truth, and in Scripture he is called Immanuel: “…the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This is God’s Word. It’s true. It’s fact. He is Immanuel; he is God with us. And guess what? This is not conditional (praise Jesus!). He doesn’t lay down requirements for us to achieve this or “earn” it. We’ve already earned it, through a risen Savior who was nailed to a cross; a Savior who took our place for a death we rightfully deserved.
There’s also an important distinction we should be aware of as we traverse these “valleys” of life—it has to do with that question “God, where are you?” This is not a God-focused question, it’s an us-focused question. Even though we’re addressing God, we are the hidden subject behind it. If our instinct is to go straight to “God, where are you?,” chances are our eyes are not fixed on the Lord. Our habit should be to see God in everything, knowing he’s blessed us in the good, and trusting he is with us in the bad. After all, what we believe—the truth of his Word—tells us so. There is a tremendous example in Scripture that we can look to for keeping our gaze focused on the Lord. Second Chronicles 17-20 tells the story of Jehoshaphat, who takes over as king of Judah after the death of his father. He was obedient to God and his commands, but he wasn’t perfect. While he made good decisions, he also made some bad ones. He was a regular human being, just like us. It’s one of his good decisions that we should observe closely, an act of obedience to God that saved his country. There was an enormous army headed their way. He prayed to God for victory over these invaders. We can take a lot of good things from his prayer—what he said and how he said it. But it’s how he ended his prayer that exemplifies the kind of trust and faith we should have when we’re in the valleys of life. He admits they are powerless against this army, asks God to save them, then says “…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). He is facing utter annihilation; they don’t stand a chance. But his eyes are fixed on God, trusting that he is near and that he will come through. And he did. God turned the entire army against itself, and they killed each other down to the last man. Do not underestimate the power of God’s presence.
We can be comforted in his name, Immanuel, and in the truth of his Word; even though we may feel alone, he is with us—always. He may be quiet, but he hasn’t quit. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
It was a tough 15 months after I was laid off, but in April of 2022, God provided yet again, this time in the form of the best full-time opportunity I’ve ever received. GOD KNEW. Through his faithful provision, I am now thankfully and gratefully walking in the blessing that he already prepared long before that fateful January 4. “God, where are you?” He is always with us.
- Find a quiet place without interruption (turn your phone off or leave it one the other side of the house or something). Pray to feel God’s presence in you and around you.
- Sit in his presence. Just sit there. Try it for 5 minutes. If that was easy, try for 10. But just sit in the presence of God.
- Finish with a short prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help you in fixing your eyes on God.
God, I know you are with me. Your Spirit dwells within me. There is never a moment when I am not in your presence, Lord. I pray that the Holy Spirit would help me to remember this when I am feeling lost or alone. God, I pray that when I feel the enemy closing in around me, the Holy Spirit would prompt me and guide me to prayer to fix my eyes on you and nothing else. And God, I pray that when it feels like you are silent, I would be still, and simply ask to feel your presence. I thank you God, Immanuel, for your Spirit in me, and for your Son, Jesus, who died so that I may live. Amen.
1 Merriam-Webster, s.v. “provide (v.),” accessed May 25, 2022. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/provide.
2 Andy Ziegenfuss, “When God Isn’t There,” April 24, 2022, All Church, sermon, https://subspla.sh/kn665rg, accessed May 23, 2022.
Photo Credit: Michael Marcagi
Bio: Jon is a husband, father, and faithful worship leader at All Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Aside from his full time job as a project manager, you will find him drinking coffee, listening to worship music, reading a personal/spiritual development book, or taking a walk with his wife and daughter. He is grateful to share a small part of his story with you to show a powerful example of how Jesus can work in our lives.