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Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
January 03, 2009
It was almost seven years ago that I was laid off and started my own company. I began without money and without loans. Since that time we have never lacked for anything important. There have been times where we have had to be frugal to get by, but God has always provided.
It is rare, I think, to receive such a dramatic and instantaneous answer to prayer. God had clearly orchestrated that day’s events, down to the finest details of my prayer to Him, the company’s decision to cut my department, and even my friend’s schedule so that he just happened to be outside my building at the right moment. It was truly an amazing day.
In many ways I give this background information with an overwhelming sense of shame.
It was not long after all of this that I began I began to worry. Not the kind of worry where I might think the occasional thought about a dwindling bank account, but the kind of worry where I would wake up at night bathed in sweat, wondering how I could possibly make ends meet. I would suffer ravaging headaches as I worried about how I would come up with another $400 by the end of the month. Every few days I would draw up a list of all the money we had in our accounts and all the bills we had owing and feel a flutter in my heart as I saw the obvious discrepancy. I would attempt to forecast our finances over a week, month or year and would always see how we would inevitably fall short.
God gave me many reasons to trust his providence. There was never a time when we were a day or two away from needing rent money and did not have it. Never once did we have a check bounce and never once did we have to miss paying a bill (though, through lack of faith, I would sometimes allow bills to collect on my desk for a month or two before paying them). I cannot remember even having a really close call. We never borrowed money; we never had to rely on other people’s gifts.
And still I worried. It is only in more recent days that I came to see that I truly felt my worrying was somehow effectual. Effectual worrying: let me explain that term. Effectual means “Successful in bringing about a desired effect.” It means “Producing or capable of producing an intended result or having a striking effect.” I honestly believed that my worrying was somehow making the difference - that my worrying was bringing about the result of having enough money. If I were to stop worrying, I felt, the money would dry up. If I stopped making my little lists of assets and expenses, I would one day wake up to find out that our rent check had bounced. If I stopped worrying, God would surely stop providing. I truly believed that my worrying was effectual, bringing about what I desired. I had to worry, didn’t I?
Every now and then I would think back to the beginnings of my company and see how clearly God had answered prayer, and what was no doubt a faulty and selfish prayer at that, and I would feel guilty. And well I should have, for God had left me a pillar, a milestone that I could refer to that would show me just how obvious it was that He was in this with me. When I felt myself worrying I should have been able to look back to His answer to the first prayer and have confidence that He would provide.
But I didn’t. I continued to worry.
I am grateful to say that in the years that followed, God helped me grow up. Through reading good books, through studying his Word, through getting to know him better, I was able to surrender all of these worries to God. This is not to say that I now lead a life completely free from worry, but that I really no longer stress about finances. We do not have a lot of extra money, yet when friends or family are in need, we have often felt blessed to be able to help them. Our prayer has been “just enough.” We ask God that He would give us “just enough” and allow Him to define “enough” as He sees fit. He continues to surprise and delight.
Worrying is a dead end. There is no benefit to worrying. Worrying does bring about all sorts of effects, but never the desired ones. Worrying brings physical and emotional stress, it damages interpersonal relationships and, for more seriously, separates us from the Lord. It brings about no benefit. I am thankful that God has helped me to see the wisdom of Job - the wisdom that opposes worry. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I learned to surrendered to God’s control, to God’s providence, and have found that when God is in control there is really nothing to worry about.
To be continued (and completed) tomorrow…