Charles Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities with the stark words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .” I can so easily relate to that contrast when my memory races back to the winter of 2007. For most people, the coming recession hadn’t yet made its debut in their lives. However, for small business owners connected with real estate, the pain was coming on strong.
Financial experts called the changes a correction since their formula for a recession hadn’t been met. That wasn’t the case with me. My real estate investing business was hemorrhaging. Bank loan funds had frozen, so buyers weren’t able to purchase our properties. Yet, the business expenses still required payment.
Crushing financial loss
Over several months of crushing financial loss, I was forced to close my office, lay off most of my employees, and operate my business from home. As a single, older woman, I felt more alone than ever before. By December all my business reserves and personal savings were gone. I was deep in a financial crisis and truly in “the worst of times” in my life.
I spent hours every day seeking God and poring over the Scriptures. As a believer, I never lost all hope, yet I felt like hopelessness was very near.
Now, looking back on that dark, scary time, I have a personal understanding of what Paul preached to the Corinthians about relying on the power of Christ:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10, nkjv)
I was experiencing more weakness than I had ever known in my life. More than a near-fatal car accident. More than a chronic disease that lasted eight years. More than an unwanted divorce. Not knowing how to escape the financial crisis was debilitating. But I now thank God that I came to the end of my own strength and was forced to rely only on His.
A financial challenge can serve as a powerful blessing in which we learn lessons that can only present themselves in a time of crisis. And the blessings are many as we gain clarity, faith, and steadfast hope.
The first clarity can be in our spending. Financial pressure can lead us to make choices about how to best use the resources God has entrusted to us. We learn about what is necessary and may even gain greater understanding about our values.
The second clarity can be about our faith. Where do we place our trust and dependence? This was a wake-up call for me during the worst of my time. I had to face the unrealized fact that I trusted my own skills and know-how to serve as my provider. I depended on our country’s economy to be sound, dependable, and trustworthy. So when my skills and the economy faltered, I realized that my faith in God as my Provider was very weak. This weakness beckoned me to step into a new leg of my faith journey and begin to develop my faith in areas that I hadn’t before.
And that’s also when I gained a deeper connection with God and began experiencing His presence in my prayer time. I began to act on the Scriptures and increase my dependence on God and His Word.
Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, nkjv).
Looking back, I can see that my “asking” was really more about begging. I felt so desperate! I praise God that He is gentle with His children and sees our hearts. He is faithful, even when we are weak. And He does watch over His Word to perform it.
Out of the dark place
Bit by bit, God led me out of the dark place and into His light. He set me on a path I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. He called me to begin writing about the Daniel Fast. And He called me to come alongside His people as a teacher to equip and encourage them in their lives.
The Daniel Fast is a method of extended prayer and fasting practiced by women and men of faith throughout the world. The twenty-one-day fast is based on the fasting practices of the Old Testament prophet Daniel, along with common Jewish fasting principles. Biblical fasting is a discipline calling one to deny food for a spiritual purpose. It’s a time to submit your whole being (spirit, soul, and body) to God and engage in a partial fast in which some foods are restricted and others allowed. Basically, you follow a vegan eating plan with even more restrictions, and the only beverage is water (see Daniel 1:12 and 10:2-3).
Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of thousands of women and men of faith experience a successful Daniel Fast through books and online teaching. God led me to this path, which I truly believe I never would have entered had it not been for Him calling to me during my financial crisis.
Worst to Best
Before long, the worst of times in 2007 turned into the best of times. The struggle turned into a blessing as I discovered what it really means to walk by faith and not by sight (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). What started as a crisis turned into the most significant breakthrough in my Christian life.
God introduced me to a new way of living my everyday life, and He can do the same for you. He will show you how to develop a deep and abiding faith in Him. He is always available to show you His way so it can become your way. And a powerful way to encounter Him and learn His ways is to fast and pray.
God’s ways are not our ways. Hear His instructions: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, nkjv).
He will give you His peace in your times of financial vulnerability. Enter a personal retreat with your Lord as you focus your attention on Him. Ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and enter into the deep truths that your loving Father has for you. Be blessed as you allow God to guide you into clarity about your finances and about your dependence and trust in Him.
Susan Gregory (“the Daniel Fast Blogger”) regularly corresponds with thousands of men and women who are seeking God through the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting. Since the launch of her website in December 2007, it has received nearly 14 million visits, and Susan’s work has taken her to more than 35 countries around the world. She has a passion to help followers of Jesus Christ from all cultures integrate their faith into every part of their lives. She is the author of Out of the Rat Race, The Daniel Cure (with Richard J. Bloomer, PhD), The Daniel Fast, The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss, and The Daniel Fast for Financial Breakthrough. A mother and grandmother, Susan lives in a small college town in central Washington. Visit her at www.daniel-fast.com.