If you walk with God long enough, you can expect to go through something that requires Christlike obedience, even when it’s unpopular and against the advice of others. I am going to share with you a time this happened to me. A dear friend of mine drove me home after Bible study one night, right in the midst of this trial. She shared words of encouragement with me, sweet medicine for my soul. And then she said, “This time in your life will likely become one of the biggest parts of your testimony.” God works that way. When the going gets tough, He shows up, not in a way you expect Him to or even in your timing. When we wonder if we can do it at all, let alone do it well. I originally prepared this recollection as a talk for a retreat so it reads a little differently than my normal posts...
When my husband and I first married, we moved into a nice home in Lake Orion, Michigan. Marrying later in life, we skipped the starter stage of apartments and one vehicle. We bought a modest home and had nice things to put inside it. We lived there for three years and started thinking about raising a family. These conversations would always lead us to discuss moving near other family. That left us with the choices of “the other side of the state” of Michigan, Missouri or Texas.
In 2006, my husband found a job in southwest Michigan and we put our house up for sale. Remember the national headlines about a decrease in house sales? We lived through it. We listed our home in December of that year. Since Ryan’s new job was starting and I had resigned from mine, we decided to stay with his parents in the interim time between our house selling and us purchasing a new one.
I remember little things looking back.
For example, I had left home without my cotton balls. When I went to Walgreens with that item on my grocery list, I asked my mother-in-law if she used balls or swabs because I would just buy a package and leave them there when we left. In the beginning, she and I would go to the grocery store and split the bill down the middle.
After a few months, we decided to lower the price of our house. We had a very good realtor who was marketing it like crazy. Over time, I used to joke our house was practically on the “parade of homes.” In any given week, we would often have 8-12 showings! And a pattern started to develop. We heard time and again people loved our house... the layout, the decorating, but people didn’t like its location on a busy road.
In 2007, we found a home church and I also started attending a women’s Bible study. Oh, what blessings they were to me in the years that followed. A year later, we had our daughter, Allie. Together, we would go to Bible study every Wednesday morning. These ladies were always so gracious to ask me how things were at my in-laws and during our prayer requests, I would ask them to pray with me at specific times my house was scheduled for a showing. We prayed over when to lower the price, what improvements to make and when to go check on the now empty house. Their prayers and compassion for my situation were everything to me.
Still, there were days I could not trace God’s hand in this waiting period.
Finally, after two and a half years, our house sold (hallelujah), yes for less than we paid for it, and with my Bible study gals, I celebrated!
In the fall of 2009, I added some more Christian sisters to my prayer team. Allie and I began attending a Sisterhood of Motherhood group on Monday mornings. These women welcomed us and never judged my situation. For almost three years by then, we had been living with my in-laws. And let me interject at this point that my in-laws are good folk. Kind, funny, social people that any of you would enjoy having dinner with... but this girl and her family needed our own space! Since our house had sold in early 2009, I knew it was just a matter of time before we found just the home for us.
Actually, the whole time we lived with my in-laws, we had a mindset that the time to move was near... the next buyer would want our house, the next house we looked at would be our new home. You get the idea.
But the right house never came along. My husband works in Grand Rapids so our search was far and wide for miles surrounding that city. If I never, ever have to look at realtor.com again, that would be just fine with me!! I would spend hours looking at house listings while Allie napped or played with her grandparents.
Sometime in 2010, we switched our search to primarily pieces of land. We knew this would add more time to our wait but by this point, we weren’t finding a house we wanted to live in long-term at a price we could afford. So, I added landwatch.com to my list of Internet searches. There were times I grew so frustrated with this process I would joke with my Bible study gals, one daily devotional a day was not enough. I was stressed. Admittedly, some of it was self-inflicted, but I just didnt understand how this could be so difficult and go on for so long!! I questioned how could God leave us in limbo for years! One time in talking with my pastor, he mentioned that I was nowhere near the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert. The humor was lost on me.
In March 2011, after going to the table with offers on various pieces of land three to four times, we closed on some vacant property. A beautiful piece of countryside we now call our own! For the next couple years, we worked on finalizing our house plans and a new home construction project. All while living with my in-laws for years four, five and six and raising a very busy toddler.
For six years, I went through a trial of sorts. What started out as “When will our house sell” became “What house will we buy” to “When will our new house be done?” Years ago, I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I did pray during this trial - at specific times; without ceasing; morning, noon and night.
God chose to leave me in this difficult situation. Within in our obedience, He worked on me and our family instead of moving us.
But He was indeed my Great Sustainer through these years of unknown. Specifically, I look back at three lessons He taught me through this time.
1) Trials come in all shapes and sizes. I know on the richter scale of trials, mine doesn’t rank up there with a terrible disease, financial trauma, etc. But it was mine. And trials can last for a short time or for years. Sometimes, the trial doesn’t resolve itself in this lifetime. God calls us to obedience. We live in an age when it isn’t that big of a deal for someone to just give up when things get hard. In MY case, God made it very clear that wasn’t His will.
2) My attitude during this time came down ultimately to this: Do you trust God or not? My life verses are Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” I have walked this Christian walk for a long time. God does allow times in our lives where He wants us to trust Him, even with very little answers or direction. Trust Him. I chose obedience; even though I had people advise me to leave my husband, go behind his back and lease an apartment, run away to my mother’s for months, rent a house while we kept looking. I heard God’s voice clearly, deep inside me. He had me in this situation for a reason.
3) I did not handle this trial with grace. I wish I could tell you I was a superstar who took the high road on every occasion and never whined or pouted. But I can’t. I did learn the importance of being real about your humanness, coveting the prayer of others and having daily time in God’s Word.
The next time you find yourself in a situation requiring Christlike obedience, I hope my story helps. I pray it resonates with you, giving you the courage to believe we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). I know this to be true; God honors obedience.