Think about a time when life seemed to crumble around you and all that you had was your faith. How did you get by? What lessons did you learn? What did you experience that could help others who might be going through something similar?
When I saw this question I thought of a story I had just shared with some friends yesterday. Twenty-five years ago, I was engaged to be married. While I was engaged, I was working as a full-time Bible worker in a three-church district in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. However, I was a local hire with no benefits. Wanting to provide health insurance for my bride-to-be, I went to UPS where I got a part-time job working from 3:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., which provided me and my family-to-be with health insurance. This was in addition to my full-time job as a Bible Worker.
Being a Bible Worker, sitting around in people’s living rooms talking about the Gospel all the time, I was not used to strenuous physical labor. I found it very hard to get up at 2:00 every morning, and even harder to do strenuous labor when I should have been sleeping in the middle of the night. It made my whole daily routine very difficult, especially at first. There was no time for me to waste. Every moment of my day had to be carefully planned in order to make things work out. One of the hardest parts was having to go to bed around the time all my friends were getting off work. And of course, being a Bible Worker and giving Bible studies in the evenings, sometimes I had to get by on 3 hours’ sleep. I remember being at work when the sun rose and when it set, and thinking to myself: I am constantly working; I will never be able to just sit and watch a sunset ever again.
After a few weeks, my fiancée broke up with me. Why is another story, but I still had a lot of growing up to do. Anyway, I was devastated. I was stressed with a crazy work schedule between two jobs, and my motivation was gone. The night after she broke up with me, my alarm sounded as usual at 2 a.m. I rolled over in bed to turn off the alarm, feeling totally drained, emotionally and physically. I realized I was not getting married. I got this middle-of-the-night job to provide insurance for my bride-to-be, which she was now not to be. I told myself I did not need my UPS job any more, and to just roll over and go back to sleep and forget about UPS. It was a hard, thankless job in the middle of the night, one which I no longer needed. While all of that made perfect sense, I found myself going in to work. Friends, I want this to sink in, because this is where God’s grace totally took over. This is not about my faith; it is about the faithfulness of Jesus. I told myself to go back to bed and forget about UPS. I decided to quit UPS, but I still found myself going in to work regardless. I had no clue what I was doing. My heart and mind were in a blind fog, while I kept a job I did not think I needed or wanted. I kept going to a job that I had decided to quit, and had no idea why I was still going to work at 3 a.m. But I was.
While I was totally mystified and confused by my actions, just a few weeks later it all made sense. The three-church district which I had served as a Bible worker for several years, decided to let me go. They wanted to start a church school, and could not afford that and a Bible worker. Suddenly UPS, the job I thought I did not need, became my only source of income. I look back now and realize why I got up and went to work that night, even though I had actually decided to quit. I had no idea I would soon be losing my Bible worker job. That night when I told myself to roll over and go back to sleep and forget about UPS, God’s grace and faithfulness yanked me up and said, “Nope! You are going to work. You don’t know why, but God knows why.”
I kept my job at UPS and even became a part-time supervisor before it was all over. I found another day job as well and kept giving Bible studies when I could, as well as preaching every Sabbath as a lay person. I learned to organize every moment of my day, even my Bible study and prayer time. A few times over the years, I would wake up after I was already supposed to be at work, but would still pray and study my Bible before going to work. I told myself: If life gets too busy for me to spend time with God, then life has just defeated its purpose. I was not going to defeat the purpose of life just for the sake of mere “survival.” I learned to keep my Bible with me and to listen to Bible tapes in the car. While both jobs, combined, kept me away from home for 16 hours a day, I hired a housekeeper. Little by little, even while I was working 16 hours a day, my life became normal, purposeful and enjoyable. I was no longer stressed. I was happy, and my heart and mind were no longer in a blind fog.
By the way, you know how I said I felt like I would never get to watch another sunset for the rest of my life? Well, as insignificant as that may sound, God was even working on that small aspect of my life. Years later, God totally uprooted me from my life in Texas and gave me a ministry in Florida, where I have watched countless beautifully magnificent sunsets on the Gulf. God is so graceful and faithful in every aspect of our lives. Even the little things we think don’t matter in the grand scheme of the Great Controversy are still important to a gracious and faithful God. He cares so much about us!
Still, I look back to that night when I woke up with my heart and mind in a fog and decided to quit my UPS job. God’s grace and faithfulness took me to work that night. God knew something I didn’t. That night, God picked me up and carried me through the fog and into beautiful sunny days. Seems like I have been in Florida forever now. I will find myself walking along the beach with one or a few of my Floridian friends, and as we pause to watch another beautiful sunset for the umpteenth time, I will sometimes laugh to myself and think, “Back in Texas I could not see through the fog and thought I would never watch another sunset. Fool! You watch them all the time now. Great is His faithfulness!”