Sunday, April 15, 2012

When It's Hard to Trust

For more than a year now, I've been quietly seeking out some sort of paid work in my field (writing and editing) that I can do at home. We'd like to be debt free. The girls and I are in the preliminary stages of planning a long trip to the UK in a year or two, and I'd like to earn some money in order to make that a more likely occurrence. Plus, college looms in the not-so-distant future. I feel a need to contribute something to the family finances.

So I prayed, and I was pleasantly surprised when work opportunities fell into my path: editing a doctoral project paper for a seminarian; a contract writing position with a company in Britain; a request for article proposals for a home ed magazine, which a friend let me know about; several tutoring queries in response to an ad I placed. All of these except one came to nothing. And the one that did work out was not only the least lucrative, but also worked out differently that I'd anticipated: the article will not be in the magazine after all, but in one of two other publications (they haven't yet decided which).

It's difficult for me when a situation looks good -- an answer to prayer, actually -- and then it evaporates. Usually I am comforted by the fact that God knows best. But when that same scenario plays out over and over, like falling dominoes. . . . My peace and some of my trust, to be honest, begin to evaporate as well. If none of these is part of your plan for me, Lord, then why are they dropping like plums around me? Why raise my hopes with each one?

It's mentally exhausting.

In fact, it wears me out. I recently located two more freelance opportunities, but both require some effort on my part to apply. Instead of rising to the occasion with enthusiasm, I find I'm responding with skepticism and, even worse, apathy. Why bother? It will be a waste of time. Again.

I'm not one of those people who hears God's voice clear as a bell. I want what Anne Lamott wants: a clear message from God spelled out in "cornflakes in the snow." But He works more quietly with me, and I know He has His reasons why. Whatever his reasons, I tend to baby-step into the unknown, blindfolded, ahnds groping in front of me.

Example: I never heard an edict from the Lord regarding our decision to homeschool. Instead, I had a germ of an idea, which grew from something I said to myself when Miss Priss was in public school first grade, "There must be a better way." Then I did what I always do: I researched the topic. I read books and websites; I talked to people; I visited the homes of homeschooling families to see them in action. I prayed, but I never got a direct answer yea or nay. Finally, I prayed, "Lord, if this is not what I'm supposed to do, then take away my interest and fill me with peace and satisfaction in our public school."

The opposite happened. I figured that was my answer.

I'm still struggling with my hopes for work. I know in my head that the Lord works all things together for my ultimate good. But my spirit is smarting with bitter disappointment. It can be hard to trust when seemingly good things come to naught.

And yet I do not want my faith to be tied to my circumstances. Nothing that happens in my life can in any way diminish who God is; His "God-ness," so to speak, supersedes everything. And while my sin nature encourages me to whine -- and to be honest, I think a certain degree of disappointment is okay -- God is big enough to handle my less-than-fabulous behavior. And for that I give him more thanks than I can express.

So tonight I pray for grace to be patient and a heart to hear whatever He wants me to hear. And if He wants me to walk blindfolded, I'll still hold my hands out; but instead of blindly groping, I'll reach for Him.


  1. Oh Ellen, I can really relate to what you write here. Sometimes God's will has struck me like a thunderbolt but often it's been a process like what you describe with your freelance possibilities evaporating. Last fall I earnestly prayed for a home helper, and like magic a completely trustworthy and flexible person materialised. The only problem was, in other ways she was very incompatible and although her help allowed me to keep my job for those three months, it was a great strain on all our family including the cat. I wondered, "God, was I just not specific enough?"

    Yesterday I heard a great sermon in church, about how doubt is an essential part of faith. The minister made the point that God doesn't punish us for doubting; also that it's during times of suffering and doubt that we can become closest to God.

    I wish you the best in your search for the right work. I believe that even the blind alleys can give us experience for when the right thing comes along. Also, I try not to take it too personally when things fall through.

  2. Thank you, Christine, for your wise words. They are especially effective as a balm to my soul, since I know of your family's particular circumstances. If we believe that God is in the details of life -- and I do -- then with the gift of grace we can turn our thinking from disappointment and anxiety to a more hopeful, expectant outlook: Whatever God working out in these circumstances, I know the process AND the result will be of ultimate benefit to me and mine.


  3. Thank you for sharing this. We are facing some changes in our future. My DH resigned his job a few weeks ago and will be leaving the public school system. Where is going to work? God knows. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to re-read this occasionally just to remind myself I'm not alone and I am not groping blindly.

    Bless you for sharing,



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