It was a dream come true. The perfect business opportunity came to us shortly after my husband was laid off his job due to company downsizing. We would have to relocate from our life-long home in sunny California to not-so-sunny Michigan, but I was completely on board.
So, we sold our home, packed up a house full of belongings, and headed east with bright-eyed anticipation for a new life. As a homeschooling mom, I was ecstatic because we would be living on five wooded acres. It was perfect for our home-learning lifestyle. We were convinced that the Lord was leading the way for our family. We fully expected not just to survive but to thrive.
However, along with the first bitterly cold winter in the suburbs of Detroit, came the stark reality that this endeavor was not heading in the direction we had planned. Unless the Lord worked a miracle, the whole plan would fail.
THE BEST-LAID PLANS . . .
My husband had always dreamed of going into business for himself. He had been in corporate leadership positions before, but never had enough clout to make a difference. He believed that if he had a chance to be a major decision-maker in a company, he could make the organization, and himself, a success.
This exact kind of opportunity presented itself when Christian friends from Michigan approached my husband with a brilliant business concept for a high-tech, nationwide identity verification system. Being the techie he is, my husband was thrilled. The business plan seemed tight. The partners had decades of business experience. The idea was a surefire win, and my husband would be the Chief Operations Officer.
But within six months, the partners’ vital connections in the industry failed. One of the partners reneged on his part of the funding, became combative with the other partners, and then dropped out. Things unraveled almost before they began. This business was going nowhere.
Looking back, we see our mistakes and bad judgment. We had foolishly put our hope in a set of circumstances, assuming God would bless them. At the time, though, all we saw were hopes dashed and dreams destroyed.
Between investing in the business and living off our savings for a year and a half, we ended up broke. Our marriage suffered. He tried getting another job in Michigan but couldn’t. My ideal home-learning lifestyle on our wooded acres would have to be abandoned. I felt like we were now out in the middle of nowhere, with no way home.
Confused by Contradiction
But through those excruciating days, I learned invaluable lessons that saved my sanity, my marriage, and my faith. All I could see all around me was a devastating loss, but God was clearing the path for far greater gain—a grander concept of who he is, and deeper insight into how he loves us.
My biggest challenge was confusion over the apparent contradiction I was witnessing. We believed God directed us to make this huge move, and we obeyed. I thought that meant favorable circumstances and success would follow. Instead, we had financial trouble and marital conflict.
I blamed my husband. He had assured me the gigantic risk we were taking would pay off. I trusted him and followed him across the country to this desolate place. I knew in my mind that God hadn’t forsaken me, but I couldn’t reconcile what I was experiencing with what I expected.
I remember sitting shyly at the county government aid offices, waiting to be interviewed about my application to receive financial assistance. Not a soul in the world knew me there, but still, I wished I had worn a disguise. I was ashamed. But more than anything, I was desperate for help.
I did receive help, including an attitude correction, from a story at the end of the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. After a long day of ministry beside the sea, Jesus and the disciples set out across the water toward the country of the Gerasenes. Jesus told his friends where to aim the boat and then he laid down to rest.
When a violent windstorm suddenly arose, and water flooded their vessel, the disciples believed their lives were in danger. They woke Jesus, incredulous that he could sleep through such an emergency: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).
I imagine the disciples thought Jesus had abandoned them. He appeared to be ignoring their peril, after all. They might have questioned why in the world he would bring them out onto the water only to let them be overtaken by the violent waves and die. I could relate.
Painful, confusing circumstances challenge our belief in the imperishability of the love of God. They certainly challenged mine when things did not go our way in Michigan. The business was not taking off as expected and our savings were draining fast. Where did we go wrong?
I thought if we followed the Lord’s leading everything would work out. I was tempted, like the frightened disciples, to question God’s tender care. Despite their doubt, the disciples were treated to an astonishing demonstration of power and authority as Jesus quickly calmed that storm on the Sea of Galilee: “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).
Jesus has all authority to command the wind and the waves. Thunderstorms are at his command. They subside merely at his word. However, I have found that the Lord typically doesn’t deliver us from trouble as speedily as he did that day. When he chooses not to rescue us right away, he has something greater for us right there amidst our storm.
A Life-Raft in the Storm
After Jesus calmed the wind and waves, he asked the disciples two piercing questions: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
These men spent a lot of time with Jesus and witnessed astonishing things. They recently watched him cleanse lepers and heal a paralytic’s body and a man’s withered hand. They heard him stand up to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and cast out demons with authority. Yet they still did not understand who he was, and how much he cared for them.
In my fear and doubt during our rough seas in Michigan, I sensed Jesus asking me the same, probing, doubt-revealing questions about my lack of faith that he asked the disciples. Why are you so afraid, Marie? Have you still no faith?
I searched my Bible for a life preserver of understanding. I started to grasp that “all things working together for good” includes our sins and the sins of others against us (Rom. 8:28). When our decisions lead to our hardship, God promises to turn it around for good! Because of this, we really have no reason to torture ourselves with “what-ifs” when our choices lead to trials. There is no reason to blame others.
Slowly, it ceased to matter what went wrong, or whether we heard God correctly in going to Michigan. I started to comprehend that God’s plan encompasses even our fumbling missteps. Even—and perhaps especially—through our sins, mistakes, and bad decisions, he is transforming us into glorious images of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:15-18; Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:21), bringing him pure delight (Luke 12:32; John 15:8-11; Col. 1:19-22). He’s always working for our ultimate good and for his eternal glory (Isa. 48:11; Rom. 8:28-29; 11:36).
We never did realize the exciting, new life in Michigan we had envisioned. In his mercy, the Lord opened a job opportunity for my husband back home in California, so we moved back and started over. As insufferable as that season seemed, I am grateful for it. My spiritual life and my marriage are both stronger because of what God did in and through me during that time.
That testing forged unwavering faith and godly hope in me. I learned how to trust Jesus in the middle of my storm and ride it out to the end, holding fast to him and his promises (Heb. 10:23). I learned to accept the bumps and tumbles of my life.
Next time the wind and the waves rise in your life, instead of praying for a quick rescue, consider resisting the doubts, the fears, and the desperate desire to escape. Instead, hold fast to God’s promises. Treasure them through the turmoil. Be assured that he is sovereign and he is good.
Jesus Christ is at rest in your boat, and all is well.
Marie Blair is a homemaker who enjoys great books, dark coffee and rainy days, preferably when taken all together. She and her hubby, Daryl, live in sunny California. They have two grown sons and a lap cat named Georgia. You can find more from Marie on her blog at settledheart.com.