As prosperous as our country is, it does not protect us from financial uncertainty. That kind of assurance must come from somewhere else. I started learning this lesson about 20 years ago.
During the early months of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2008, I embarked on what I thought would be a new career—landscape design. The year 2007 was the best in the company’s history; 2008 was probably its worst. I was hired before we knew how bad it would be.
I didn’t know to be concerned about the financial collapse when it started. I didn’t understand then that it would impact me directly, that my livelihood would be so dependent on disposable income that evaporated in the blink of an eye.
I might not have endured those months if not for two things—God’s provision through family and what God taught me a few years earlier.
I was sure my wife and I would have paying jobs not too long after graduating from seminary in 2001. Besides each of us having fresh master’s degrees, we had done everything the seminary told us to do to get a job. Our only concern was how we would navigate being called to two different churches.
Soon after our resumés went out, my wife had an interview. It didn’t pan out, but at least she had an interview, which was more than I had. I waited for a phone call, an email, a letter, anything. I sent out another batch of resumés. And I waited and waited some more.
We were glad I had a job in landscaping and she had a job in child care at the time. Added together, our paychecks almost made one salary. The generosity of family and a food bank kept us fed.
Growing concerned about the lack of interviews, I went to the seminary’s job board and found sign-up sheets from a handful of state Baptist conventions looking for college ministers. None offered a salary. Instead, each one expected the recruited college minister to raise his or her own salary. Figuring an interview was better than no interview, I signed up.
Three interviews later, my wife and I were sure God was calling us to start a Baptist collegiate ministry in the Northeast. We just needed to raise a lot of money. Northeastern cities aren’t cheap.
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This was a crisis of faith for me. For one, it was a blow to my pride. I was under the entitled illusion that a master’s degree translated into a paying job—meaning an employer would pay me. I soon found myself disabused of that idea.
The bigger crisis of faith was my fear we wouldn’t make ends meet. I always had understood it was up to me and my hard work to provide for my family. Asking people to support us felt like expecting money to appear out of thin air. It was hard to believe that would happen.
But we didn’t have much choice if we were going to do what we believed God called us to do.
I worried constantly we wouldn’t make ends meet. I was more worried than when we had low-paying jobs and received help from family and the food bank. I worried until God did exactly what my wife knew God would do—God provided for us.
It happened as we struggled to raise funds to start a new Baptist collegiate ministry in the Northeast. We were volunteering at an established Baptist Student Union in New Mexico, and the director invited us to join him full-time. We just needed to raise our own support.
We accepted his invitation, and after our ministry assignment was changed to New Mexico, funding started to arrive steadily until we were fully funded. We stayed fully funded for several years of wonderful ministry.
Psychologists and sociologists have their explanations for why and how our funding struggle ended. As valid as those explanations may be, they can’t exclude God. During those years, I experienced God change me from worrying about money to trusting God will provide.
Still today, when I feel the initial pang of anxiety over finances, I remember those years of God’s faithful provision for what God called us to do. It’s a valuable lesson for the present moment.
Financial assurance now
In 2018, my wife and I agreed with a large group of people that God was calling me to be the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. After trusting God through our time in New Mexico and two subsequent ministry callings, it was time to trust God again.
Even as a faith venture, we at the Standard pay attention to the markets and the broader economy. As a nonprofit, our funding is affected by both. As a Christian nonprofit, our assurance doesn’t rest in either one. We’ve reminded ourselves of this during the preceding years of economic volatility that now has culminated in the collapse of three banks over the last few days.
President Joe Biden on Monday sought to put us at ease about the banking crisis: “Americans can rest assured that our banking system is safe.” Investors didn’t buy it, as evidenced by volatility in bank shares Monday that spilled over into energy markets on Tuesday and continues to unsettle markets around the world.
Biden was doing his job; he’s supposed to project confidence. But we shouldn’t put full faith in his reassurances. Not that we should panic. Instead, in times of financial uncertainty, we can and should put full faith in God, trusting God will provide for what God calls us to do.
What is God calling you to do? I assure you, God will provide for it. It may take a while. It may take you in a direction you didn’t plan to go. You may not like it, and you may have to do without along the way. God’s provision may not arrive from where you and others expect, but it will arrive. God hasn’t failed us yet.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed are those solely of the author.
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