And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:19
Maybe you’ve had an initial “but God” experience, but now find yourself doubting His ability to love you, to provide for you, to rescue you, to intervene for you. You feel like you never have enough of what you need, that you’re never enough for what life requires. You’re burned out, tired, and resigned to a mediocre life.
You don’t have to stay that way.
While it’s true that on your own you will never have enough of what you need, God has more than enough — daily bread to sustain you, assurance and support to strengthen you, and the presence of His Spirit to encourage and empower you. No matter where you are in life, if you’re battered and broken by life, God can mend you. He can restore you. He can redeem even the most painful experiences in your life.
Will you let Him?
Imagine a woman who has been married to the love of her life for years. They have followed the Lord faithfully and built a satisfying life together. They have two sons. They take little getaways to Lake Israel when time allows, and they remain faithful to each other. She depends on the love of her life and trusts him as the sole provider.
Then one day, everything changes. Her heart is ripped into pieces as her husband, friend, confidant, lover, and father of her children is unexpectedly taken from her by death. The loss of her husband feels almost unbearable. And she realizes she has to somehow muster up the strength to tell her two sons. With tears in her eyes, she calls her two sons to come sit next to her. Looking them in the eyes, she says, “Boys, your dad died this morning in an accident.” Her two boys can hardly grasp what she is telling them, but as it begins to sink in, they start to wail, intensifying the pain she is already experiencing. She pulls them close into her arms, and they all mourn together.
Time seems to pass so slowly. As she holds her boys, she is overwhelmed with deep grief and cries out to God, Why! Why is this happening? You know I need my husband! You know my boys need their dad! You know I don’t have the strength to raise these boys by myself! You know I can’t provide for them by myself! God, why?
The next day she wakes up with a heavy heart and starts to make funeral arrangements. Someone knocks on the door of her home. Expecting to see a family member who’s come to comfort her, she sees instead a stranger standing there when she opens the door. It’s an imposing man who snarls at her, “Your husband owes us $10,000. You have until the end of the week.”
“But I don’t have $10,000!” she protests. “My husband just died. There is no way — ”
“Save your sob story. Doesn’t change the facts. You can’t pay? We’ll take your two sons.”
The man turns to leave, and she lunges after him.
“Please! Don’t take my kids! Please, sir! They are all I have left!” She’s hysterical.
She falls to the ground and screams out to God. First you take my husband away from me! And now you’re going to take my kids!
Things could not be worse.
Rope of Redemption
These were good people. But being good did not exclude them from a terrible tragedy. They loved the Lord, they served Him, and still the life they had built together fell apart.
When difficult situations happen, how does anyone find the strength to go on? It’s hard to think about emotional healing when you’re numb with grief and overwhelmed by what the future holds — more loss, more pain, more sorrow, as if one loss leads to another. And yet so often this is the way life happens. We suffer a setback, and suddenly we feel like the snowball we just dodged has turned into an avalanche. We end up feeling alone, wondering how we can keep going.
The truth is, you can’t do it alone. You have to be as resourceful as you can be, but you have to ask for help. You must trust God for something that you may not even be able to imagine or put into words. That’s what happened with this poor woman. She thought she was at the end of her rope, but God turned her rope into a redemptive lifeline to the future that he had ready for her. Let’s take a look.
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” — 2 Kings 4:1-7
Notice this poor woman’s response in the midst of devastating tragedy. She immediately told someone who shared her faith in God. In fact, she chose to run to the man closest to God at the time, his prophet Elisha. If there was going to be help from the Lord, then Elisha was the go-to guy who could tell you how it would happen.
Keep in mind, though, that this woman didn’t know how her story was going to end. For all she knew, Elisha might’ve told her to buzz off and leave him alone. Maybe he wouldn’t have been unkind about it, but she had no guarantees. If anything, going to him was a long shot.
But it was her only shot. And when you’re up against a wall, you do what you have to do. You do whatever you can do.
This woman could’ve easily sat inside her home, too frightened, too vulnerable to try to find help. She was powerless. She could have blamed God and played the victim — or, better yet, the martyr. After all, wasn’t she doing everything in her power to follow God, and this was what she got? If that didn’t make everyone admire her faith and feel sorry for her, then nothing would!
But this woman, in her desperation, “cried out” to Elisha for help: “Please… just listen. My husband, your servant, is dead. His creditor is coming to take my two boys. Please, I need help.”
She does not try to overcome her challenges on her own. She doesn’t try to save face or pretend that everything is okay. She doesn’t try to act like she has it all together while she’s falling apart. She understands all too clearly that she needs help. She needs to tell someone. Ask for help. There was only one thing to do.
Weathering the Storm
Not only does she ask for help, but she listens closely to what God says through the prophet Elisha, then follows his instructions exactly as they were said to her. She could have thought his instructions to fill each big jar to the top with oil from her little jar didn’t make sense. She had so little oil. She didn’t question the instructions or argue. Instead, in her desperation, she was willing to do whatever it took to save her sons.
Like Bartimaeus, she knew that desperate times call for desperate measures. She didn’t stop and second-guess Elisha or look ahead and consider how scientifically impossible it would be for her little dab of oil to fill every empty vessel in her neighborhood. Humbled by her tragic circumstances, she followed her request for help by being obedient to the instructions she was given. She did what she was told to do, without question and without hesitation.
Do you want to receive God’s healing power? Do you want to let go of your past and your hurt? Do you want to enter into the abundant life that God has for you? Then you’ve got to get to a place where you’re willing to allow God’s Word to work in you. You’ve got to be willing to ask His people for assistance. You’ve got to be willing to do what you know you can do. You’ve got to get to a place where you are willing to do whatever it takes.
What do you need to do — right now, today — in order to allow God’s presence into your problem? How do you feel about what you need to do in order to seek God’s power in the midst of your problems?
When we stifle our emotions and try to handle everything by ourselves, we hinder our progress and miss out on a “but God” encounter. Bottling our emotions prevents us from acknowledging our need, our limitations, our desperation, and it definitely makes it harder to ask for help. Learning how to express our emotions as we turn to our Father for help allows us to be humble, open, and vulnerable.
God’s Word gives us a ton of wisdom on how to manage our emotions. One example is in Ephesians:
‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. — Ephesians 4:26
What God doesn’t do is tell us to deny our emotions.
The danger of keeping our major losses to ourselves is that we don’t get input or help from any other healthy sources. Instead we keep beating ourselves up in our heads or telling ourselves lies, exaggerating what has happened by imagining the worst possible consequences. We lose perspective, often getting farther and farther from the truth.
The storms of life will pass. Even though it feels like there is no calm eye in the midst of the raging winds around us, God provides shelter when we turn to Him. Even though it feels like our lives are over, “but God” can transform them if we follow His guidance.
When we turn to Him — through his Word and his people—we gain not just objectivity but clarity and a supernatural perspective. We begin to see things from God’s viewpoint. When life beats us up, we have to tell those who care about us. We have to get a true perspective.
Maybe you’re facing an enormous loss that leaves you with a variety of conflicting emotions — fear, anger, hurt, doubt, anxiety. Maybe it’s a secret from your past or a burden of worry about the future. Maybe you’re concerned about your reputation and others’ perceptions of you, so you keep your need to yourself and try to hold your life together. By yourself. Alone.
But God wants you to know you don’t have to. You’re not alone. And you can be healed. I’m living proof of that, along with millions of other people around the world. Lay down your burden. Tell someone you trust and respect for their relationship with God. You may feel like your jar has been shattered and can’t be fixed, but God wants to restore the pieces and fill you with healing.
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Excerpted with permission from But God by Herbert Cooper, copyright Herbert Cooper.
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