“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.“ —Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), Holocaust survivor
Speaking of journeys (which happens to be the theme of this blog), ten years ago at this time I started a new job that–seven months later–would bring an end to my twenty-year career working in higher education. I didn’t know that at the time of the end of that job, and I spent several years looking for another position in my career field as I was still ten years away from normal retirement age. However, with the passing of each year without a new job showing up, I came to realize that I was not going to find another job, and I ended up applying for Social Security benefits at the age of 62 just to have any income again.
It just goes to show how much anyone’s life can “turn on a dime“ even when it looks fairly routine and secure. I had very high hopes for that particular job, too, when I accepted it and moved one thousand miles to a new city and state to start working there.
Regardless of the outcome, looking back I still feel it was the right move to make. While I can’t say I expected my future to be anything close to what it has been for these past ten years since I started that job, what has transpired has provided me with many unique and valuable insights I never would have experienced had I continued to work in my career field and live in the very small world it encompassed. While my finances have been very limited since losing that job due to the ending of a regular paycheck coming in for almost a decade now, the world has literally opened up to me in my travels and adventures to include living in environments I never expected to be living in while looking for a job, and now in my efforts to find affordable housing on a Social Security income.
The quote at the top of this blog post by Corrie ten Boom stems from what Jesus had to say about worry in Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I was shocked to my core on the day I lost my job back in April 2009–a short seven months after I started it. It never even registered as a blip on my radar screen that such a thing would happen after working in my field for twenty years, and I was more excited about this particular position then any previous position I had held as the environment in which I would be working in was a very creative environment. However, this post is not about that job or what happened at that job. It is about what transpired after that job ended.
As stated above, on the day I was fired I was stunned. Here I was in a city and state I had not lived in before with no professional or social networks as I had only arrived a scant seven months earlier to start the job. There was the learning curve of learning a new job, and I was doing some volunteer work at a huge megachurch I attended, but it takes time to establish networks. I came close to finding another job in my field twice after losing that job before I ended up leaving that city when my one-year apartment lease ended. However, neither of those jobs came through, and I could not afford to stay in that apartment as an unemployed person existing on unemployment checks that were 1/4th of the amount of what I had earned at that job. A friend offered me the spare bedroom in her house back in the state I came from while I was looking for work, so when my apartment lease ended I moved back there. In the process, I lost all of my furniture and a bunch of other stuff as I could not afford to move it back to the state where I had been living.
You could say I had a lot of “worrying” going on in those early days after I lost my job, and no matter what I did to try to find another job, nothing came my way. Over time I literally learned to live “one day at a time” and not try to project into the future. I stopped getting excited when I would get a call for a job interview because I had sailed through a bunch of interviews at that point in time, and I was in the “final candidate” category several times but something always kept it from going through.
Three months after arriving at my friend’s home I found a small furnished apartment in the upstairs of an old house in that town where my friend lived that I could afford on my unemployment benefits ($275/wk before taxes) which ended in May 2011. I lived in that furnished apartment for four years and three months until new owners bought the house where my apartment was located and they upped the rent considerably, and they also wanted to use the apartment for their own purposes. It had been ideal as I was paying $500/mo including utilities, but I had to move out at the end of March 2014. At that point a second friend offered me her spare bedroom in another city in that same state; however, now I was not only looking for a job but added to it was the search for an affordable apartment I could live on when my Social Security started in July 2014. I had no income between May 2011 when my unemployment benefits ran out and July 2014 when my Social Security checks started.
Not only did I spend several years in a job search that produced nothing, but now I was and I still am involved in a housing search that has producing nothing after 4 1/2 years of looking for it. As I’ve gone looking for housing that I can afford on my Social Security income, I’ve gotten primarily two main responses from the apartment complexes I’ve visited: (1) I was repeatedly told that my income on Social Security is too low to rent from them, and (2) I was told at senior low-income apartment complexes that my name could be added to a waiting list that was at least one year to as long as three years to wait. In fact, I’m still on a waiting list that I’ve been on since March 2014 at a senior apartment complex in that town where my furnished apartment in that old house was located. I contacted them a few months ago to inquire about it again, and I was told the waiting list was now five years long.
After losing that apartment in March 2014 and then staying at my second friend’s home for a little over five months while looking for an affordable apartment to rent, I decided to leave my second friend’s home and that city in September 2014 in search of affordable housing elsewhere, and since then I have ended up living in weekly-rate hotels as my only housing option for just over four years now. It is obvious that the housing search has been every bit as unfruitful as the job search before it had been.
With all of that being said, I want to return now to the topic of “worry” that I mentioned above when I first lost my job in April 2009. There are many verses in the Bible on worry, anxiety, and trusting God (for example, click here for 50 verses related to that topic). We live in an very fast paced society filled with anxiety, frustration, and rage–and if you don’t believe me just turn on the TV or go on social media. And life really can turn on a dime for anyone. It certainly did for me. However, Romans 8:28 is always in effect whether life is good or uncertain or ugly:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
For those of us who profess to be Christians, our lives are not our own. We have been called according to God’s purpose, and that purpose may not look anything like what we think it should look like or even planned for it to be. Did God know I was going to lose that job and never find another one? Of course He did. Did God know I was going to end up living in weekly rate hotels for over four years now? Of course He did. Psalm 139 written by David (the second King of Israel), who experienced more highs and extreme lows throughout his life then most of us will ever experience, makes that quite clear. In fact, verse 16 states:
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Let me make this a bit more personal . . . Does God know right now what you are going through? Of course He does. However, do you wonder if He cares?
Absolutely and without any doubt (read Psalm 139) . . . .
There are things going on in this world that if God pulled back the curtain on the battles going on in the spiritual world and showed us everything going on all around us at any given moment, we’d probably have a heart attack. Seriously! We have no idea, even in the hard times, what God protects us from and why He wants us to trust Him no matter what is going on or what circumstances we find ourselves in.
God calls us to trust Him. Period . . . no matter what it looks like from our perspective. And, in fact, we should never look at things from our own understanding because we are clueless as to the reality of what is really going on all around us at any given point in time, and whether we like it or not. We do not know what He is protecting us from–which is why He tells us to trust Him, and not trust in ourselves. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes that very clear:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
And it doesn’t get any clearer than that. It is moment-by-moment that God leads us but we must trust Him to do it and not head out on our own or rely on our own limited understanding of any circumstance we find ourselves in. We need to let God lead us, and not be led by our emotions or perceptions. God’s timetable is not our timetable, and while the wait can be very frustrating from our human perspective, God does things in His own time.
Ten years after my life changed forever, if there is one thing I’ve learned over and over and over again, it is the truth that we do not know what is really going on in this world and in our own circumstances. We must trust God to guide us through each and every moment of each and every day. That is how I have gotten from there to here.
We never know when a day will show up and our circumstances will, again, “turning on a dime” to fulfill God’s purpose for us. So… Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways . . .
Acknowledge Him . . .
And He shall . . .
Direct your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Trust God” by J. Moss and Kirk Whalum:
Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here