1992—“the year in the doldrums,” as many called it—was a year of recession, unemployment, and uncertainty. Sound familiar?
It was the year Sam lost his job eleven times in twelve months, starting shortly after the birth of our daughter—the year I (Maria) desperately needed to know that God could be trusted…
It was also the year the bank repossessed our brand-new, recently paid-off Ford Bronco because we could not afford to pay a $4000 balloon payment for one year of insurance that was added after a small accident (long story)…
The year I blew the engine on our old Plymouth—our remaining working car—while driving in 105-degree weather without air conditioning, with our baby girl wilting in the back seat…
The year Sam blew the engine on an old donated station wagon…
The year a bicycle found in a dumpster became Sam’s only mode of transportation, which was stolen a week later…
The year Sam slept on our friends’ couch for weeks and borrowed their truck to come home to us on weekends…
The year I cried every time the phone rang, knowing it was either a bill collector or Sam calling to tell me he had been laid off—again…
The year we had twenty dollars in our pocket, an overdrawn bank account, and an eviction notice on the table notifying us that we had ten days to pay $1,300 in back rent…
God, Where Are You?
Day after day I cried out to God, echoing words I had found in the Bible, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear!” (Hab.1:2a). As a new Christian, I wanted to believe that the Father whom I had just welcomed into my heart was not a figment of my imagination—that His love for His children was real.
Sam and I were about to find out that God was doing something, just like He was doing something in the days of the prophet Habakkuk when He responded, “Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe it if you were told” (Hab. 1:5b). It’s true. Had He told us what He was doing in our lives, I would not have believed it.
He Was Growing Our Faith
Sam was laid off ten times when ten tire stores closed their doors. We knew that if he lost one more job, we would be in deep trouble. There were no more tire store chains! When it finally happened, Sam walked into the house carrying the full weight of shame and defeat on his shoulders. My anxiety over the eviction notice we had just received was only shadowed by the ache in my heart when I saw the pain in my husband’s eyes. I could read in every line of his forehead what he refused to say out loud—that he felt less than a man for not being able to provide for his wife and newborn child.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, but childlike faith erupted within me. “God loves us! He would not throw us out on the street!” I shouted. A fire within me ignited and began to consume my thoughts—a fire that contradicted reality and led me to do what I refused to do for the first years of our marriage. I stopped acting like a damsel in distress and became, instead, the builder and keeper of a fortress for our family, for my husband—I became an oasis for his weary mind and body, so God could renew his strength before another day of battle.
I ran to the bedroom and could not find Sam. He had retreated to the dark bathroom like a wounded animal. When I found him, he was sitting with his face in his hands. I sat on the edge of the tub next to him, ignoring the dark cloud around us. With a quick preamble, “Please don’t say ‘no’ until you hear me out,” I hosed him down with ideas that took shape the minute I opened my mouth. We would pawn his shotgun, rifle, and my wedding ring—which we would get back, I assured him. With the money, we would start a “husband and wife cleaning business.” It would not take much; we had a shelf full of cleaning products from previous years as Amway distributors. “Honey!” I said. “Everyone will love us! We will be the most professional, hard-working, and trustworthy cleaning team ever!”
Within an hour, we walked out of the pawnshop with $180 in our pocket. We spent $80 on groceries, diapers, baby formula and a tank of gas. We spent $30 for layout and printing of 1,000 bright yellow fliers, and then used $20 to buy matching shorts, T-shirts, and old towels at the local thrift store. We spent the rest on essential tools for a new cleaning business—buckets, squeegees, brooms, and a mop.
He Was Showing Us the Power of Prayer
Our first prayer after we were ready for business went something like this: “Lord, we know you will take care of our needs. You already know what they are, but we want to ask for a miracle this week. We need $1,300 in seven days or we will be evicted. Will you direct our steps? Will you bless our new business?”
Two days later, while attending a potluck, an old acquaintance we hadn’t seen for weeks sat next to us. “What are you doing these days?” she asked. We told her the story, minus the prayer request. “What a coincidence,” she said. “I’m getting ready to show a building I manage to prospective renters. I need to have the inside windows of twelve floors cleaned,” she said. “Would you be interested?
Would we be interested? “Of course,” I said before Sam had the chance to analyze the situation and the fact that we had no prior experience cleaning windows. The next morning, we sat in her office and confessed that we had never bid for a job before. She quickly turned to her computer and typed one for us. “I want you to win the bid,” she said, “so you need to come in lower than the company we’ve used for years. Could you do it for this amount?” She handed us the paper. Bid amount $1,300.
For six consecutive nights, Sam and I cleaned windows and glass office partitions from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m., talking about God’s goodness until we were too tired to scrub, squeegee, and talk at the same time. I had never felt so tired and refreshed at the same time, and this was just the beginning of the journey!
He Was Teaching Us to Wait on Him
I wish I could say that during those months I was a model of trust and faith every minute of every day. I wasn’t. God was taking care of our needs on a daily basis, but the provision often came at the last minute. The $1,300 check, for instance, was cut only minutes before our eviction deadline. Our friend had to pull several strings to produce immediate payment rather than waiting for the customary 30-day billing period.
For someone who likes and needs to be in control, waiting on the Lord is never pleasant. That was a lesson I needed to learn. It is a lesson that has, more than any other, served me well.
He Was Proving that He Keeps His Promises
When I first read the story of the Israelites’ journey in the desert after God delivered them from slavery, I said, “Why would they doubt, grumble, and complain so much when they just saw God part the Red Sea and shower them with manna from heaven?” I think I now know why. They were, like Sam and me, utterly human creatures getting reacquainted with the faithfulness of their Father. God knew that only in the desert, devoid of everything that gave them a false sense of security, would they realize that when He promised to take care of them, He was telling the truth.
He Was Saying, “You Can Trust Me!”
It’s hard to believe that nineteen years have passed since those tumultuous struggles, and that the economy once again has brought us face to face with job losses and other financial struggles. The difference, however, is that this time around Sam and I have not doubted God’s goodness even once—because we’ve been through worse times before and found out that He truly can be trusted!
How About You?
Is the uncertainty of this economy making you wonder whether God can truly be trusted? Why not put your trust in Jesus, who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He keeps his promises to those who put their trust in Him. You can do so today by praying a prayer like Sam and I prayed many years ago:
Dear Jesus, I’m weary from walking in this world alone. I recognize that I’m a sinner I want to put my trust in you. By faith I believe that you came to this world to die on the cross for my sins, so I could have a relationship with God. I believe you rose from the grave after three days, conquering sin and death. Please come into my life and begin to show me that you can be trusted. Thank you for saving me.
If you just prayed this and meant it, you are not alone in walking through the uncertainty of these times. God said, “I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He is telling the truth–you can trust Him.
Maria Keckler is a writer from San Diego, California. She and her husband, Sam, and have been married for 23 years and are proud parents of a daughter now a college freshman. They are passionate about helping others find hope and victory through Jesus Christ–just as they have for more than 20 years.
I met Maria through the Kingdom Journeys book launch team. Her blog helps inform my writing and my faith – love that!
Maria’s journey through financial difficulties is one to which most of us can relate. Growing up, my dad lost his job to closings and downsizings a few times. I know my parents struggled more than they revealed. Now my dad is gone, and I got to spend a few special summers with him growing up because he jobless. Those summers mean more to me than any designer jeans, cool car, or electronic device ever could.
We didn’t have money, but we had each other – time together. A lesson for us all.
Thanks, Maria, for sharing this difficult time in your life and marriage.