Tough seasons! We all have them. Think for a second and at least one tough season will come to mind. I had two of my toughest life seasons as a young mom. One was through divorce. My marriage broke up when I was 27 years old with three young children, (1, 2, and 6 years old). We moved out of our home in the middle of winter. I had no job, no training, no savings, no divorce settlement or maintenance, and $150 in cash and rent paid for the first month. In desperation, I turned to state aid so my children would have a home and food. Then I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I was a mess. Depression hung heavily over me. We were reduced to a level of poverty I had never known. I can remember at one point serving my children saltine crackers and peanut butter because there was literally nothing else in the house for them.
In the midst of this very tough season, while searching for relief from the pain I walked in, a friend talked to me about the One who gave her hope. That was Jesus Christ. My relationship with Him started then. Paul, an apostle, talks of such a season in his life in Philippians 4, verses 11b through 13, where he wrote: “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul wrote this while in prison.
Paul had been imprisoned several times, stoned, whipped and who knows what else. He had lived in want for sure. He had also lived in plenty, times of comfort and fellowship with the churches he witnessed to. Just as Paul knew want, I did as well – great want during this period.
I had a choice to make in my new life. I could bury myself in pain, frustration, and discouragement; or I could trust in Jesus and let Him give me the strength to get through each day. I had to do my part though. I had to pray for strength and then trust Jesus and let Him take care of my life. Was it easy? Not at all. I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I had to step out in faith, putting one foot in front of the other in His plan for my life.
Those steps were scary ones. When I went to college, I was scared to death and nearly walked out of my first class on my first day. I moved my children thirty miles away from my support network. I was told by a professor that I had to target all my speeches to the lifestyles of my audience which meant I was supposed to speak on drinking, partying, and sex, the very lifestyle I had walked away from. I was in a car accident while tutoring a student that totaled that old car we were so dependent on, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, refusing to give up.
In my junior year, I had major heart surgery and missed four weeks of school. I then missed an additional week when a blood clot was discovered and had to have surgery to remove that. All of this happened while being the sole caretaker of three children. Tough times? Absolutely, but I did not even consider giving up. God was leading and I was following, even when I didn’t always feel His presence. I remember very clearly sitting in the hospital bed journaling the night before my surgery, which is how I do my best praying. and I was working out my fears on paper. I wanted to live for my children, and I almost died during that surgery from an overdose of anesthesia and I woke up in ICU on a ventilator, and again six weeks later when the blood clot they found was pushed into my aorta before they realized it was there. That I didn’t die either time was testimony to me that the Lord had plans for my life and wanted me to raise my children.
Oh, and I did buy a different car. I had almost no money except a small student loan. I had never personally bought a car before, and I didn’t know what to look for. Unfortunately, I got taken! My new used little car had no emergency brakes, no catalytic converter, a cracked windshield (it was winter and the windshield was covered with ice and snow), and no second gear. It was a standard transmission, which I didn’t know how to drive but figured I could learn. Some things were fixed by the dealership, and I learned to speed shift. Well, in truth, it was called speed shifting but I never learned how to do it in a speedy fashion.
I eventually graduated in the top 1% of my class. Six weeks later I had a great job and moved myself and my children two hours away from anyone I knew to a city I had never heard of. I had gone through my period of want and adversity, and I had come out the other side stronger. I had learned to be content, whether well fed or hungry. I knew I could survive anything through Christ who gives me strength. He walked with me through that season of my life. I may not have always seen it then but looking back it is so obvious that He was orchestrating my life.
The secret to surviving a season of want? Paul’s secret? My secret? It is keeping our eyes on Jesus during our times of trial and triumph, all the while praying, trusting, believing, and letting Him lead. Then focusing on that next step. And then the next. And the next.