When Everything Goes Wrong
By Jenny Smith
I knew as soon I walked through the door of the dentist’s office that it was going to be a rough day. Since my husband, Chad, had lost his job, we simply could not afford insurance. The small company I worked for decided to no longer contribute to health care plans. I’m pretty sure if I had elected to take the family coverage they offered, I would have been writing them a check each week. We fell into the gray area called “the working poor.”
As I signed in at the dental office, I knew I had enough money to cover the cost of the visit but nothing extra. I could tell when the receptionist called me back that the news was bad. My daughter, Meghan’s, wisdom teeth needed to come out—immediately. The receptionist handed me the referral slip to a local oral surgeon. As I sunk down in the waiting room chair, weariness flooded my body. Why couldn’t we catch a break?
During the past year, we had lost everything we had thought defined who we were. Our home had been foreclosed on, many of our so-called friends disappeared, and we were struggling to try to maintain some kind of home life where our three daughters felt secure. I dialed the number on the slip and immediately recognized the voice on the other end—a lady from my church. I quickly hung up. A tear slipped down my check. I knew I was going to have to admit we had no insurance and no cash to pay up front for the procedure.
As I sat there, I couldn’t believe the reality of what my life had become. When everything had first started falling apart, more people than I care to remember encouraged us with the words, “God will take care of you.” Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for us.
Taking a deep breath, I dialed the number again.
In the months that followed, my world continued to crumble. My life simply didn’t match up with what I believed about God. I knew we had made mistakes in the past, but I also knew God was supposed to be our provider, and it felt like he had been laid off too.
I struggled with how God had let me down. Where was He? Why did it seem like no matter what we did, everything continued to disintegrate around us?
Months later, I came to the end of my rope, as they say. I realized I didn’t have the strength I needed to face the changing reality I was living in. The only option I had left to me was to open my Bible and cry out to God for help. I discovered the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know them; neither did I.
The very first “I Am” statement Jesus made spoke directly to where I was—not in a comforting way, but in the way when Scripture cuts right to the heart of the matter. I had confused the gifts with the Giver. In John 6:35 we find Jesus telling the crowd following Him that the only reason they followed Him was because their bellies were full! On the day before, Jesus had miraculously provided bread until they “ate their fill of the loaves” (Jn. 6:26b). My heart was pierced as I realized how much of my commitment to Jesus was based on Him letting me eat my fill of life.
This one realization began to open my eyes and give me hope.
These words Jesus spoke, “I am the bread of life,” began to take root. I realized I had become so dependent on the gifts God gave me that when they were gone, I felt abandoned. The reality was I had not been abandoned! I came face-to-face with a decision: would I follow even if I couldn’t eat my fill?
Our lives are not as stable as they have been. Something as simple as buying gas stresses us as we see the prices rise daily. Many of you knew exactly what I was talking about when I shared the glimpse of how I felt when I had to admit we didn’t have insurance. Others of you have family and friends who are desperate for some kind of hope. But as long as our security comes from the temporal gifts, we can’t stay steady in our faith. So what can we either tell our own hearts or share with those around us?
The truth? Most of us have experienced a very abundant existence—one where it was tempting to see God as always providing for us by making our lives easy. As I sat in the dental office, that’s what I wanted: either insurance or enough money to pay the bill. The easy solution. The truth was when I looked at it from the perspective of those who were following Jesus in the book of John, I saw that it comes down to whether we have our eyes fixed on the temporal or the eternal. The crowds were following Jesus because He had met their need—a true need to be fed—and yet He wanted them to follow Him not for the gifts He could give, but for the gift He is.
If I had the opportunity to pull up a chair beside myself in that dentist office, do you know what I would tell myself? “Darling, your God is providing for you. Open your eyes and you will see His care for you all around. Could it be your feelings are coming from not having your needs met the way you want? Everything God gives us is a gift pointing toward the true gift, Jesus. Make Him your focus.” If we will but lift up our downcast eyes, we will see the gift─Jesus.
As the phone began to ring as I sat in the dental office, I didn’t pray; I was simply too weary. I had lost my hope in God. As the oral surgeon’s receptionist answered, I gritted my teeth, telling her my name and my situation. Do you know what happened? She shared with me how many people were in the same predicament as I was. She was so kind. She told me about the options they offered and, most of all, she made me feel normal—not ashamed, not less than, just a woman trying to do the best she could.
We as the church have been given a great opportunity to reach out to people who are hurting. It is not accomplished by saying platitudes, but by digging down into Scriptures and speaking truth over their weary hearts. Even if it’s a hard truth like I had to confront—was I following Jesus to have my belly filled or only on the basis of who He is? The truth—as biblical truth always does—set my heart free.
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