I escaped from prison in mid-October, 2003.
Perhaps I’d best explain myself lest rumors fly: My prison wasn’t a cell with bars. It was a state of mind and heart in which the fear of financial insecurity held me captive.
My husband left his lucrative career as a civil engineer to follow God’s call into ministry in 1996. That call meant selling our four-year-old waterfront home and moving to a year-round Christian camp that paid no salary. Thus, we raised our own financial support for our family of five. We gave our best effort to do so, but that support never reached its goal. Living expenses increased year by year, but our donor base remained the same.
I stressed every month, wondering how many donations would arrive in the mail, and how I’d stretch them to buy groceries, gas, kids’ clothes, and pay the orthodontic bills. And then came the big crunch.
Our eldest daughter chose to attend a Bible college in Alberta. My husband and I supported her decision although we had no idea how we’d pay the $10,000 annual tuition. When time came for her departure, we loaded our Mercury Sable station wagon, and then she and I headed out. Unbelievably, the car’s transmission blew before we left town.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” said the mechanic. “The repairs will take three days and cost $3,500.” I nearly choked. We borrowed a loaner car and returned home to wait for repairs to be complete.
The summer’s last family camp had just begun. Staff families were expected to eat dinner with the campers, so I put on a smiley face and joined the guests in the dining hall. Outwardly I appeared fine, but inwardly, my gut wrenched with fear.
We didn’t know how we’d pay the tuition. How in the world would we cover the transmission repair? Anger at God simmered and began to boil. “We’ve committed our lives to serving You and others,” I muttered. “And this is Your way to say thanks?”
The next morning as I flossed my teeth, a chunk broke off one of my molars. The same molar had broken two years prior, but I hadn’t seen a dentist because I lacked the funds to get it fixed. Now a fix was non-negotiable, but that meant the expense of a crown.
The mechanic phoned on Friday. “The car’s ready, but the heavy work we’ve done means it needs a wheel alignment before your road trip,” he said.
I looked at my husband and rolled my eyes. “Sure thing. And guess what they’ll say at the tire shop? They’ll say our tires need to be replaced.”
My prediction came true. We spent another $500.
The fear of financial insecurity held me captive until one day several weeks after the transmission blew. That’s when I discovered the key that unlocked my cell.
What was that key? Changing my perspective.
For seven years I’d focused on our bank account. I grew envious of others who drove newer vehicles than ours or who took expensive holidays or owned vacation homes. Granted, I thanked God for His provisions for us, but I always wished He’d provide more.
My perspective changed that autumn morning as I poured out my heart to God. “Why the huge financial stress at this time?” I asked. “Are You telling us that it’s time to leave the ministry to find a real job?”
The answer came back in a still, small, unforgettable voice. “Go ahead. Leave the ministry here if you want to provide for your family in your own way. But know this: If you leave, you will miss seeing Me provide for these unexpected expenses and for your kids’ education.”
I fell silent and listened as the still, small voice continued. “I love you. Trust Me, my daughter. Praise Me in this desert, and you will experience Me in new ways.”
Those words shifted my focus from my money to my Maker—the One whose name Jehovah Jireh means “God will see to it.” I stopped my muttering. I began to praise Him who says to seek His kingdom above all else and who promises to see to it that our needs are met in return.
We remained at the camp, and I watched in wonder as God saw to it that our bills were paid through unexpected donations. More amazingly, over the next several years, our three kids graduated from post-secondary education debt-free. The math didn’t even compute, but God made it work.
“Almost all new discoveries of God—all fresh revelations of His person, nature and character—are tied to some crisis, some intense human experience,” says David Wilkerson. As one who endured a self-inflicted prison sentence for years, I wholeheartedly agree. The intensity of living month to month with no guaranteed salary afforded me the opportunity to discover God’s ability to provide for my family in ways I’d never anticipate.
My husband and I no longer work at the camp. We now lead an evangelical non-profit ministry. We still rely on donations to pay our bills. And we’re still experiencing Jehovah Jireh’s commitment to us. He sees to it that our needs are met every month. His way of doing things rarely aligns with our expectations, and He often waits until the midnight hour to provide. It seems some things never change.
But one thing has changed—I now watch and wait with praise and anticipation. Fear is gone, and I am free.
Grace Fox has authored eight books including Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation and produced its corresponding DVD-based small group Bible study. She and her husband co-direct International Messengers, a mission organization with 200 career staff in 25 countries. You can follow Grace on Facebook at fb.com/gracefox.author and on Twitter @gracelfox.