Sinking…

“That Sinking Feeling,” © 2016 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

Starting a new business during the 2007 real estate  and economic crisis certainly didn’t appear a wise or promising move.

Of course, we initially made our plans in 2006 and in that year, no one dared to openly anticipated the downward spiral of 2007.  But as soon as the ink dried on our new business contract, the economy began to sour.

It was too late. We had already left a secure income behind, and had begun preparations for the opening of the new business. There was no turning back.

And so, my husband moved several hundred miles away to oversee construction our new business location, and I stayed behind to sell the house.

My task was a crucial one. We needed to sell for a number of reasons.

Our business had yet to open, and therefore, a reduction of our living expenses was a must.  We had to economize until the business began to bring in some sort of income.

In addition, I had been diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.  Medical expenses soared. We desperately needed the money.

When I sat down to figure budget and bills each month, my stomach turned.  We were going under…

As I juggled our funds, I prayed passionately for God’s provision; the petition “Give us this day our daily bread” walked off the pages of my worn Bible and right into my life.

Yup,  that “sinking feeling” overwhelmed me. Financially, physically and emotionally, I was barely afloat.  Events flooded my boat, and threatened to capsize me.

My mother and father had been there.  However, at the time, I was too young to understand the financial straits that lead them to apply for government subsidized housing.

Dad’s health had pushed him into early retirement, but the paperwork for his disability income was still being reviewed. In addition,  Mom anxiously looked for full-time employment.

And so it was that when I got up for a glass of water one midnight, I saw Mom leaning over her desk and black ledger book. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

I was just 10 years old.  Thus, I didn’t fully comprehend their midlife financial and health struggles.

Years later, however,  my husband and I obviously found ourselves in similar crisis.  And I wasn’t sure how we’d get through it.

I’m sure you’ve been there, too.

That sinking feeling.

It’s a desperate place to be.  You feel you have nothing left to give.  And you definitely know that you have no control over anything.

Unless you are my husband.

That’s right.  One day, with singular optimism, my husband suggested that we donate a large sum of money from our very limited savings to a local ministry.  He also proposed that we give goods and services from our business.

You’ve got to be kidding me!  We were depending on our savings and business capital to carry us.  He couldn’t possibly be serious.

But he assured me that he was.

And suddenly I felt a little like the widow of Zarephath.  She, too, found herself in a desperate place.

I Kings 17 tells us that she was nearly destitute. She had nothing left but a handful of flour and a little oil.  She had no other means for providing food for herself and her son.

She had no hope of acquiring anything more. After all, there was a famine in Israel, and she was a widow with little to offer her neighbors.

She had run out of options, and she had lost hope. For this reason, she began gathering sticks in order to build the fire on which she planned to prepare a last meal.

That’s when Elijah arrived. God, in fact, told Elijah to go to Zaraphath to find the widow.  God promised Elijah that the widow would provide for him.

For this reason, when Elijah met her at the city gate, he made a simple request; he asked for a cup of water.

Knowing her heart, God had chosen the widow.  And she was obviously a gracious and merciful person because despite her circumstances, she kindly set out to get the required cup of water.

As she was going, Elijah called after her: “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”

I am sure her heart sank.  She may not have cared about the flour and oil for her own sake.  But I’m absolutely certain that her mother’s heart wished to provide for her son.

The prophet had asked her to share what little she had left, a handful of flour and a smidgen of oil.

In her response, I hear desperation and despair, “‘As the LORD your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die,” (I Kings 17:12).

She had not only lost hope but she had also lost faith.  How do I know?  She said, “‘As the LORD your God lives…” (italics mine).  She identified God as the God of Elijah.

She did not claim Abba as her own. Perhaps, she believed that God had  abandoned her.  Her words certainly reflect such hopelessness.

Lost and alone.  And in that moment of quiet desperation, God asked her to give.

To give at such a time… Well, it goes against natural wisdom. It doesn’t follow common sense.  Yet, Elijah said to her, “Do not fear…”

In her place, I might have laughed out loud.  After all, under such circumstances, I would be so far down the road of fear that such an admonishment would seem ludicrous.

Beyond all doubt, my mother’s instincts would prioritize the safety of my son. Yet, Elijah said, “Do not fear…”

And it occurs to me that often what prevents me from giving God’s grace is just that–fear.  I fear that there won’t be enough for me or for those I love.  I fear I won’t have the strength,  or the energy to follow through.

I fear I won’t be able to carry the burden emotionally.  I fear I will be hurt.

I fear…

Elijah’s answer to her doubts, her desperation, and her hopelessness was one of direct reassurance.  He did not condemn her for being afraid.  He did not lecture her.  Instead, he gently encouraged her to embrace God’s path of grace.

“Do not fear,” Elijah said.  And then, he continued, “Go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son.”

Elijah’s request was not unreasonable.  He did not demand all that she had. God would not require her to deny her family food.  Elijah simply asked her to share first from what little she had left.

The antidote for fear was a bold act faith…faith expressed through grace.

When she felt all was lost, when she thought she could no longer hang on, when she felt herself sinking, God called her to give of self rather than to preserve self.

From a human perspective, it made no sense.

Indeed, giving when finances are limited, reaching out when my own health is precarious, encouraging when my heart is shattered, lifting another when I feel lost…it all seems counter-intuitive.

Yet, I am reminded of Christ’s words in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”

And the widow received a similar promise.  Elijah told her, “For thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.'”

If she obediently gave,  Abba promised to provide.  But her faith must triumph over fear.

I’m glad God recorded her story.  True, I don’t know how she felt as she prepared that bread cake for Elijah.  But I do know that she prepared it.  She exercised faith, even if that faith were only the size of a mustard seed.

And Scripture says, “The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD…”  God kept His promise.

She didn’t become wealthy.  Nor do I think that her life suddenly resembled “easy street.”  Her every wish was not granted by a god who resembled a genie in a bottle. “Cinderella” did not meet her fairy godmother or find a pumpkin transformed into a carriage.

That isn’t what He promises.

However, Abba does guarantee that He is faithful even when our faith in Him runs low (II Timothy 2:13).  He loves His children.  And when we trust Him with all that we have and are, He wraps us in His grace.

The widow received each day what she needed: light for the journey; food for herself and her son; strength to make that next step.

Like the children of Israel who wandered in the desert, she received only enough “manna” for that day.  Yet, the bowl of flour and jar of oil never ran dry.  Both replenished daily as she gave God’s grace to others and in particular, to Elijah.

I’m sure she wondered at times about the future.  But in giving,  she trusted Abba for her day’s provision.

People sometimes ask me how we got through our health and personal economic crisis.  And I readily admit that I found the road extremely rocky. I didn’t know that I’d survive cancer.  I didn’t know that Abba would provide for our financial needs. Our “jar” of savings depleted.

Yes,  I know firsthand that sinking feeling.

And in those dark moments, God asked me to give to those around me.  He called me to share when I felt I had nothing to offer.  Yet, in that calling, He also daily replenished my “bowl of flour and jar of oil.”  I experienced Abba’s provision in the midst of truly dark hours.

As I sat in waiting rooms and listened to others relate their struggles, as I brought meals to my fellow chemo patients, as my husband and I offered financial assistance to others in need, as I exercised faith over legitimate fear, God provided just what I needed for that next step.

In losing “self,” I found life.

Of course, the boat continued to leak for several years, but finally, the holes were patched.  Yet, as a result of that experience, I still kneel every night to pray, “Abba, please provide our daily bread.”

Without a doubt, when I lean over my black ledger at the end of each month, tears of gratitude stream.  With every check I write, with every bill I pay, I breathe a prayer of praise.

Abba provides.  Again and again.  He gives strength for the journey.  He cares for my every heartache, every weakness, every need.

Grace. Continuing, moment-by-moment grace.

And I remember…

When all seemed lost, God called me to share what little I had.  As I expressed His grace, peace and hope anchored my soul. But most of all, His joy displaced that sinking feeling.

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased,” ~Hebrews 13:15,16

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…”~II Corinthians 9:8