Last night we had what was supposed to be a great night out with friends. With a six-year old, who’s inexpensive babysitting options are playdates, we haven’t an evening out in quite a while, so we excitedly we headed into Atlanta early to hangout before dinner. When it came time to go to the restaurant to meet our friends, we got in the car, turned it on and started to drive, but unfortunately, the engine died and kept dying.
In that moment I went to a very bad place. And I can tell you exactly where that place is.
About 16 years ago on a cold January night as I was driving home to Kentucky through the plains of southern Ohio, my 1969 VW Beetle’s engine started to die. It would sputter and die and then I would rev it and it run, but only able to hold out for about a minute until it would start to die all over and I start the cycle all over again. This went on for almost a half-hour as I limped down the road.
And every time it would start to die, I would yell out “JESUS!” I was mad. To be honest at this time I didn’t have a prayer life and by that I mean, He and I weren’t talking. I was disappointed in God and disappointed in myself by things that I had done and had happened in my life – and I blamed Him. So my prayer “JESUS!” was not so much a cry of help, but one of accusation! “Why are you doing this to me?!!!” But it was a start and Jesus can win with anything!
Finally the car died and could not be revived! As I stepped out of the car into 20 F° and 20 mph winds, I felt abandoned. Without a cellphone, I was all alone. On top of this I was essentially broke, so there was no way to get home or to pay for my car to get towed home or let alone fixed. I was done. That was reality.
As I scanned the horizon I saw the light a couple miles off of a gas station and not knowing what to do but needing to get warm I started to walk. I don’t know if I’ve felt so done, to helpless.
And now 16 years later that was the moment I went back to, all the fear, all the pain, all the despair. It felt so real all over again. What had started out as a great night with friends had spiraled into my worst nightmare, made worse by the fact that now I had dragged my wife Masha into it!
But as real as that was, that was only part of the story, because back in Ohio, I had only made four or five steps from my car when a state trooper pulled up right in front of me. In the bad place I was I immediately tried to figure out how this could be worse, how I was going to be in trouble with the law for abandoning my vehicle or some other infraction I knew not of.
But the cop let me ride in the back of the car to the gas station and along the way asked me if I had AAA who I could call to get them to tow me. I had kind of forgotten about AAA (American Automobile Association), because I figured I was too far from home for it to be an option. But again, not knowing what else to do, I called them and found out that the membership I had allowed for a free 100 mile tow each year! And I was just 104 miles from home!
I got home that night riding in a warm tow truck which arrived shortly and everything else got sorted out: I figured out a way to pay for my car to be fixed and life went on.
But that wasn’t the moment I went back to in that Atlanta parking garage. I went back to the moment when I was convinced that everything was over.
We all do. In the moment of fear, nothing good is visible. Everything terrible and getting worse by the minute. Every lie is thrown at you.
We’re going to be broke. We’re going to be stuck out here forever. Our friends will hate us for ruining their night. I don’t know how, but this car breaking down is completely my fault. I’m a horrible person. I’m not taking care of my wife. What’s wrong with me. On and on and on!
But there is no reasoning with the devil. He is called the accuser of the brothers and sisters (God’s kids) for a reason!
So in that moment, I had two choices: I could roll up in a ball and die and let all the lies be proved true or I could stand up to them and believe for a better outcome – to believe that God was better than my circumstances.
Now I have done the first one, partnering with the devil and his lies enough to know that they deliver everything they offer and it is nothing good!
So over time I have learned that the only thing to do in these situations is to choose not to partner with emotions and all the crazy thoughts in my head, but rather to partner with faith – to believe that God is good, that He loves me, that He is moving on my behalf, that He has not abandoned me, that He never intended for this to happen, but now that it has He will (if I let Him) work it out completely for my good, for by benefit and my promotion. (Romans 8:28)
So, feeling like an irresponsible idiot in the face of all my thoughts and fears, I looked at Masha, and said “It is going to be alright.” I didn’t feel it. To be honest, it felt like a lie. But one that that the past has proved true. So I pushed ahead, grabbing each lie by the head. “We’re not going to die.” And as I said that I started little by little to realize truths that my fears had kept me from seeing. Sure we didn’t want to spend money on car repairs, but if we needed to for once we had means to do that. “And we’re not alone.” I remembered our friends were just two miles away. “And there is a solution.” See I had let my membership in AAA lapse 14 years when we moved to Russia and in all those years, we had never needed a tow. So I renewed my membership online from my phone (which for the first time in days at 8pm at night hadn’t died yet!) and called for a tow.
Then they told me it would be two and a half hours till the tow truck could come. Again, I was tempted to go to a bad place. This is ruining our evening! We’re going to be sitting out in this parking lot for the rest of the night. But then I remembered that our friends were having dinner and two and a half hours is plenty of time to have a good time, so I asked the dispatcher to have us called when they were 20 minutes out and we grabbed an Uber and ended up having a great night with friends!
Why am I saying all this, because faith is always foolishness in the face of the wisdom of fear and worry. Faith is never revealed as true wisdom until it is acted on. Jesus put it this way, “But wisdom is proved right by all her children,” (Luke 7:25) meaning that only when you put it into practice do you discover it to be true. Bill Johnson has put it another way – “Faith demands and action.” It is action that moves us out of the pit where all the lies are reality and brings us to a place where we can see God moving on our behalf, when, in fact, He never stopped.
That’s why Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing [do not worry], but in everything, by prayer [talking with God – not the devil] and petition, with thanksgiving [remembering what God has done in the past], present your requests to God.” And so if we do that, Paul assures us the result will be that “the peace of God, which surpasses understanding [everything that you think is reality in the moment of crisis], will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
God is good! He is for us! And no matter what we are facing, no matter if it is being done to us or is of our own making, God is working to turn it to our good, if we will step out in faith, believing He is good and giving Him room to work.