Erin Odom grew up in upper middle class America – -and she planned on spending her life as a missionary. Instead, at the pinnacle of achieving this lifelong dream, she saw her marriage in shambles and her family standing in line to apply for food stamps. In the midst of it all, God began to soften Erin’s heart, humble pride she didn’t even know existed, and draw her to a deeper trusting in His provision for all of her needs. It’s a grace to welcome Erin to the farm’s front porch today…
God is the Great Provider.
I’d known that since childhood, but I didn’t truly recognize His personal provision for our every need until I was in my early thirties, with two young children and another one on the way, a husband who worked several extra jobs on the side, and an income that still didn’t cover all our expenses.
It was a desert season.
We were frustrated by trying to make our money stretch, I was depressed, and our marriage was stuck in neutral.
The tunnel looked dark, and I couldn’t see a way out.
On paper we were poor, yet I can look back now and see how I richly experienced God’s presence during that time.
With a burgeoning belly, one toddler on my hip, and another wrapped around my knees, it wasn’t uncommon for me to open my near-empty refrigerator and whisper prayers of petition wrapped in thanksgiving: God, You will meet our every need. You have never failed us. You are in control.
It was a “this is it” season. This, I would tell myself, is when our faith is proven real.
It wasn’t the first period in my life when I’d been forced to depend on God alone.
A key example is the day my friend Courtney died tragically in a car wreck.
I’d known Jesus as my personal Savior for ten years at that point, but at just nineteen, my faith was still mostly untested and immature.
I felt empty, alone, and abandoned by God.
The day I lost Courtney is still clear in my memory.
Stifling tear-filled screams as I clenched and unclenched my fists, I crumpled to my dorm room floor and clasped my hands over my heart.
“Where are You, Jesus?” I asked audibly, as I nearly hyperventilated. “Where are You now? Why can’t I feel You? Are You even real?”
Through heavy-hearted days during which sleep evaded me, God slowly, gently began to heal my grief.
He soothed me through 1 Peter 1:6–9:
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Fast forward more than a decade, and the circumstances of this season were certainly different from that heartbreaking day in 1999.
But in this trial, too, God was building our faith.
Just as I personally had learned to trust Him as I walked through a season of grief, our family would learn to trust God during a season of need.
It had been easy to trust Him when we weren’t in want. Now that we were, God was cultivating in us a deeper faith, a stronger trust in His provision.
I started looking at and crediting each and every incident—from the government WIC checks to the gift of a box of persimmons from a stranger—as God’s provision for our family.
Like manna in the wilderness, the Lord provided again and again and again.
As time passed, I saw it more clearly than ever, and looking back, I realize He provided all along.
The manna or “bread” from heaven in Exodus 16 wasn’t what the Israelites wanted, but it was what they needed.
It wasn’t extravagant, and in their shortsightedness, forgetting the turmoil the Egyptians inflicted upon them, they grumbled against God’s provision.
Still, it met their needs.
Born in the United States to a semi-affluent family, I’d never experienced true want.
Perhaps we desired more, but just as the Lord had provided for the Israelites in the desert, He covered our needs.
Western culture teaches that if we work hard, we will reap the benefits of that hard work.
Likewise, God’s Word encourages a strong work ethic and speaks of rewarding those who are good stewards of their time and talents.
Proverbs 10:4–5 says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”
While I don’t disagree with the notion of working hard in order to achieve your dreams and provide for your loved ones, I fear we’ve taken things to an extreme and too often applaud our own efforts instead of giving God credit for providing for our needs.
Yes, we are His instruments.
Yes, He has given us gifts to use to bring Him glory and to provide for our families, but it all comes from Him, my friends.
When we forget that, we come dangerously close to adopting a humanistic worldview.
God’s Word reminds us that everything we have comes from the Lord.
Romans 11:36 says, “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
If we are not careful, pride can take root in our lives, and we can begin to operate out of the false belief that success is the result of our own merits.
I know that was the case with me, although I would never have admitted it or even seen it in myself before our season of low-income living.
It took a humbling, a knocking down of the pride that ran deeper than we knew, for us to realize that everything we have comes from God alone.
When we live by the philosophy that we have earned and are entitled to our possessions, we’re more likely to hold onto them tightly rather than share them freely.
When we remember that all things come from the Lord —
it’s easier to hold His blessings with open hands and give generously.
Erin Odom is the founder of The Humbled Homemaker, a blog dedicated to grace-filled living designed to equip and encourage mothers in the trenches. Erin and her husband, Will, live in the South where they raise their four children.
Erin’s new book, More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated, is part memoir, part practical how-to that reads like a novel. You won’t be able to put this book down, and your heart will walk away changed by the time you finish it. This isn’t like any personal finance book you will ever read. You will walk with Erin through some of the most painful times in her life—and through God’s work in her life, you will see His hand in yours as well. This is one book you can’t end 2017 without.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]