Part of this giving was faith promise missions giving, which is a very Independent Baptist program designed to support missionaries. I made a yearly giving commitment, and I gave a certain amount every week until the following year when I would pray about the amount and recommit for the upcoming year. During my first year of working, I committed to give $12.50 a week. I added that up to $50 for most months, and I liked that amount. It felt like a lot of money for me at 15, but I thought it was what I should do.
One week, I came up $6.75 short. I don't remember what I had done with the rest of my pay, but I felt sick when I realized that I would not have enough to pay my missions offering for the week. I went to our garage, where my mother was folding laundry and I told her about my problem, hoping she would give me a job to earn the extra money. Instead, she told me to pray about it. I hated hearing that. I wanted a solution. But I still prayed about it. I wanted to have the full amount to give.
Then I cleaned my room. If you know me at all, you know that this was probably a necessary thing. I am messy. But as I was cleaning my room, I cleared out some of my drawers. I threw away notes and old homework papers. And you know what I found? An envelope of money. In addition to the school job, I also tutored elementary students on the side, and I was paid in cash. I was paid directly by the parents a whopping $10 per hour (a fortune in 1992), but this payment was different. This particular parent had ordered hot lunch for her daughter on a day her daughter was absent, and so she took her hot lunch refund out of my tutoring money, leaving me to ask the school office for the difference. (This seems like a crazy thing to me now, but I guess because my dad was the school principal, she felt like it was an appropriate move.) But God had a plan behind her crazy reasoning. Inside the envelope of tutoring money was exactly $6.75. A five, a one, and three loose quarters. And I learned something. God provides.
I have told this story a thousand times, but the truth is this: I have a hundred more stories just like it. Truly I do. Throughout my life, but especially in the difficult times, He has provided. Money. Opportunities. Healing. Friendships. Guidance. Jobs. Cars. Patience. Encouragement. Hope. He provides over and over. And during my current season of life, during a difficult situation with our jobs and ministry, He is still providing. I cannot even tell you how much He is taking care of us. But here is the hard thing... Provision doesn't always come the way we expect it. It doesn't always come when we expect it.
I like to plan. Jake and I have a budget that accounts for every dollar we make. We know when we get paid and how much we get paid, and we have come to find peace in the plan we have created. (Thank you, Dave Ramsey, for that.) But the plan has broken down. Paychecks have been late, or reduced, or have not come at all. And it's no one's fault. Right now, it is the nature of our church life and church work. But here is what I have learned, just because provision does not come the way I think it will (through my paycheck) does not mean it isn't coming. Because it comes. Every. Single. Time. And it comes through ways we could not plan or organize or arrange. It comes through checks in the mail and surprise gift cards and money handed over with the message "God told me to give you this". And I believe He did. Because He knows what we need before we even need it, and He prepares provision long before we pray and ask for it. Isaiah 30:18 says that the Lord waits to be gracious to us. He waits for opportunities to be gracious and merciful and kind. And He often uses His people to do it.
I am continually reminded that this is who God is. It is His character. He can't be anything less than this. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. He provided a ram on Mount Moriah. Manna in the wilderness. Water from a rock. Bread and fish for the 5,000 (or however many people were actually there). Money from a fish. Salvation for all sinners. So this is me, confessing to you that I am so very blessed. I am simply called to be faithful in my giving, and He gives back, without fail. I am overwhelmed by God's provision. I am blessed with friends who are generous with prayers and resources. I am daily
I don't know what you need. Money. Healing. Restoration. A miracle. I don't know. But I know who provides. I know who takes care of that kind of thing. I know it because I am living it. I know it because when I was 15 years old, God arranged for me to be paid $6.75 instead of a full $10. He knew I would remember that lesson. I do. And I am grateful.
How has God provided for you?
*Which meant that I went to school one day wearing two different shoes. I also did this once as an adult. I am crazy like that.