I have truly enjoyed reading over all of my blog posts from last year, but none has so amazed and humbled me as reading "A Pillar of Fire by Night" from November 12, 2010. After over a year of unemployment and living with in-laws, it seemed like God was intentionally blocking every opportunity that crossed our way, intentionally foiling each plan we made, and though we were truly mystified by God's choices we knew he was doing something purposeful. This is a quote from that post:
"Lately Matt and I have taken comfort, ironically, in just how awful some circumstances have been. Last week Matt actually had a job offer over the phone, and we told the kids that Daddy had a job, and their little eyes glowed, and we celebrated! But several hours later the company had to renege because, though they were well aware that Matt's dad worked at the same place, they weren't aware that their company's hiring policy forbid them to hire two family members. "Well," Matt said, "only God could orchestrate something that awful." And, though we're not exactly sure what God was trying to work in that situation, it gave us a strange sense of comfort to know he's doing something in our lives."
It hurt to finally have a job offer, then have it snatched away. It seemed a bit like a cruel trick, like a dangling carrot, like the work of a malicious god, certainly not loving, but even when we couldn't imagine how, we somehow knew it was the act of a loving God. Though the situation grew only more baffling over the next few months, one year later we have the pleasure of peeking behind the curtain and seeing exactly what the wizard was working.
Matt got an awful factory job in January and we took a rental house on the edge of a small town. In April, when Matt's dad left his company, the company called Matt to offer him the phlebotomist job that he had been denied in November. We weren't sure what to do. It would be a better job for sure, but we had settled in a house 36 miles away from it! A couple from our church tentatively offered to let us move into one of their rental houses much closer to the job, so, as much as we didn't want to move again, Matt took the phlebotomist job and we planned another move. We couldn't have been any more puzzled with God's workings than when the rental house with the family in our church fell through. Now Matt had a job 36 miles from our house, a commute we couldn't afford the time or money for. We watched for other rental houses closer to Matt's job, but I had no peace at all with taking any of them. They were in unsafe neighborhoods, or too far from church and family, or too small for our growing family. So we stayed in a house we were happy with, and a job Matt was happy with, even though we ended each month in the red financially. Surely God had something he was working.
It wasn't until Matt landed the job with the American Red Cross one mile from our current house this September that we finally saw the pieces fit together. Matt couldn't get the job that he was offered as a phlebotomist at his father's company in the city last November, because if he had we would have moved to that city and been locked into a less-than-ideal job and housing situation. First, God gave Matt a factory job that enticed us to choose the house we needed to be in. Next, God gave Matt the phlebotomist job far from our house so that Matt would have the training he would ultimately need for the Red Cross job right down the road from the house we already lived in. That job offer that so broke our hearts one year ago was not the act of a malicious deity, it was the loving first step on a bewildering path to a beautiful resting place, and I could never have planned it better myself.
This Thanksgiving we are settled in a home, Matt's job is stable and adequate and rewarding, and we await the birth of our fifth child, who is perfectly healthy. But even better, we have the gift of knowing that the Lord is our shepherd. He leads us beside quiet waters, as well as through dark valleys, but his rod and staff comfort us until we come to green pastures again.
You may never have the joy of peeking behind the curtain and understanding the reasons for the dark valleys you walk, but, baffled as you may be, the promise stands:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)