I had figured out approximately how much support we needed to meet next month’s expenses and wrote it down in my prayer journal. “God,” I prayed almost every morning, “would you please provide the following amount for us?” The 18th of the month came and I eagerly opened my emails to see if God had answered my prayers. I slowly opened the paycheck records email. “God,” I breathed, “I trust you no matter what our support is this month.”
My heart sank. It wasn’t the amount I had prayed for. In fact, it wasn’t even close. “Father, how are you going to provide for us this month? How are we going to pay the bills?” This was literally seconds after I had told God I would trust Him.
Perhaps my favorite part of the annual DNI’s workers retreat is the faith stories evening. Workers share how God has answered their prayers in many small and big ways. The annual booklet “Stories to Encourage Your Faith” documents many of those stories. Surely DNI workers would never doubt His ability to provide after reading through one of those booklets. Not so for me.
When I look back, I wonder why I doubted God’s ability to provide. Perhaps I wasn’t doubting God’s ability as much as I was questioning how He would provide for our situation. I mean, where would the money come from? Our support check had already come and it was far less than our budgeted expenses.
That month, God didn’t provide enough finances to meet our budget. He didn’t even provide enough support to meet our recorded expenses. But somehow, He stretched what He provided to meet our every need. It was truly a miracle!
My wife pointed out the similarities between our situation and the widow that Elijah stayed with during the three-year drought. As the story goes, Elijah came upon a widow and her son in Zarephath, a Sidonian town where Baal was worshipped. When Elijah asked her for some bread and water, she told the prophet that they only had enough for one more meal before they would starve to death. Elijah assured her that God would provide for her and her son throughout the drought, and that she should use the last bit of flour to make him a cake. She willingly made him the last cake and God started a three-year miracle. Every day, there was enough in her flour bin and oil jar for another meal. “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16, NKJV).
That miracle is quite different from the miracle that Elisha performed nine chapters later. Another widow lady—a widow of one of the prophets—had a huge debt to pay. The creditor was going to take her sons as slaves if she couldn’t pay off the debt. She cried out to Elisha for help.
“So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil’” (2 Kings 4:2, NKJV). Elisha told her to gather as many jars and pots as she could find and to pour her oil into those vessels. And she did. God miraculously multiplied the oil in that very moment and she found herself with more oil than she could ever use. Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay off her debt, and live on the rest.
Both of these widows stepped out in faith. Both trusted God to provide, and He did. The Sidonian widow saw God provide just enough food for each day. The prophet’s widow saw God provide once in great abundance for many years to come.
Next time I face a faith-stretching experience, I want to count it all joy. I want to stand strong and trust that God will provide. And I want to encourage you to do the same. Reading about miracles is always encouraging. Telling faith stories is exciting. Living out those faith stories is rarely glamorous. Perhaps that is why James started his epistle with a timely reminder, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3, NKJV).
--Written by I.M.