By JASMIN HOWELL
I watched the funds in our bank account dwindle with every passing day. Abrupt recent changes to our economy had negatively affected both my husband’s and my job. We didn’t have much income on the horizon, and I was waking up daily with a sense of fear and restlessness about the future. Elisabeth Elliot wrote that, “…waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” I was taking my burdens to God minute my minute, constantly dependent, consistently asking for greater strength and faith to keep from giving in to a spirit of heaviness.
I also determined to take action. So I revised my resume and applied to various positions, hoping to find another job until the housing market picked up. I had applied to twelve positions when I finally received a call for an interview over the phone. I was extremely excited. I thought, Perhaps this is an answer to prayer! The phone interview went very well and I was called in for a second interview in person. After the second interview, I was almost certain I would get the position.
As we waited, I just kept praying, “Lord, Your will be done.”
I finally received an email and opened it with expectation! Our financial burden was about to be lifted! But the email started with the words, “I regret to inform you that we have decided to pursue another candidate at this time.” My heart sank, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of grief. I felt small and insignificant for a moment. All of the thoughts about my insufficiencies rushed to mind. Despair was at the door, pounding, trying to get in and completely overwhelm me. I had so many unanswered questions. Why didn’t they pick me? What had I done wrong in my interview? How could this be part of God’s perfect plan for us? What now?
All I could see was what we were lacking.
The contrast between what I knew and what I saw before me was so intensely different that I struggled to gain a perspective of truth. But we held tight with faith to the truth that our wise and loving Father saw and knew every nook and cranny of our situation. Isaiah 61:3 encourages the heart of a believer with the promise that God provides “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” As I read this verse, I prayed for Him to teach me how to properly clothe myself in a spirit of praise, even amidst so much uncertainty. For me, I had to physically imagine lifting off my heavy thoughts, the burdens that the enemy tried to place on me, and instead wrap myself in the fragrant, soft, beautiful and rich garment given to the daughter of a King. Proverbs 31:25 describes a woman who wears such a garment: “Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”
I wondered, Did the Proverbs 31 woman rejoice in time to come because it would bring better things? Not necessarily. Did she laugh about the future because she was ignorant? Nope. The ability to rejoice in the midst of trying circumstances is definitely not a human one, I can testify to that. It is a supernatural act of the Spirit of God, a Spirit given to us that embodies praise, strength, and honor. We can rejoice about the current time and the time to come because we are clothed in a strength, a firmness; we are hidden in the Rock; we are given a surety, majesty and excellence, and a garment of splendor reserved for those who cling to the promises of God, even when all of our present circumstances – and the deception of the enemy – seem to say otherwise.
The woman who is clothed with strength and who rejoices, does so – not because everything is sunny and the coffers are full – but because she knows that both in this moment, and in all future moments, God is faithful.
I tried to find a solution for our finances in my own strength, and I was almost successful. I see it now as a mercy that God did not open that door for us. That job was not a part of His perfect story for our provision. Though it is still challenging to put aside my desires for financial security, and though something different might seem easier, I love that God is using this sparse season to clothe me with His strength, to wrap me in a beautiful garment of praise. I continue to walk through the challenges of this season, and I accept the means for provision He will no doubt provide, learning to rejoice that my hope both for the present, and the future, rests securely with Him.
Becoming a woman who characterizes these qualities does not come from striving but from surrender, and I’m so excited to hear Leslie share more in depth on the topic of “Strength & Dignity” at the upcoming 2016 Set Apart Conference this June. Join myself and other women to be encouraged to exchange self-effort for complete reliance on Christ!