by Denise Gitsham Jones
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
We are faced with mutually exclusive choices every day of our lives, and every choice between “this” and “that” has temporal and eternal consequences.
My “this” and “that” are faith and fear. In a year filled with disappointment and loss, the most challenging trial by far was losing my primary source of income. A client that comprised 80% of my work load – the very same client that paid our mortgage – suffered financial setbacks that resulted in the sudden cancellation of my contract with them.
Never mind the fact that we were in a legally binding contract for another year.
Never mind that we’d just emptied our savings a few months earlier for a God-directed purpose.
Never mind that my husband had just resigned from his stable US Government career to launch his own law firm.
Never mind that I’d recently committed to caring for my elderly parents, medically and financially.
And never mind that I’d busted my tail to help save this client for the past four years.
In return for my loyalty and hard work, I got an email from its newly appointed CEO saying, in essence, “too bad, so sad.” Which I could have survived on my own, had it not been for the fact that we would now lose our home, that housed my husband, our dogs, his daughter (part-time), and me, as well as my elderly parents, who’d moved in with us a month earlier.
With so much at stake, I faced a “this or that” moment of my own: I could either trust God, or submit to fear. For months, I ping-ponged between the two, and it was hell. But over the past few weeks, I’ve settled into trusting God, thanks to these lessons I’ve learned in the fire.
There’s a reason the phrase “do not fear” is in the Bible 365 times. Fear is a natural human emotion, and it’s impossible not to feel fear when faced with terrifying circumstances. I asked God what he meant when he said “do not fear.” What he taught me was that while it’s normal to feel fear, it’s not ok to be paralyzed by it. Being “strong and courageous,” as God commands us (Joshua 1:9), doesn’t require being fearless, but rather asking God for the grace to keep walking, when every next step feels terrifying or impossible.
A decade ago, I experienced a season that rivaled this year as the worst of my life. At the time, I’d known Jesus long enough to trust him, but didn’t know him the way that I do now. For the past seven years, I’ve focused on fostering intimacy with Jesus, by recording all of the ways God has come through for me. When times are tough, re-reading my history with God affirms his faithfulness and character. Focusing on who God is, rather than my circumstances, enables me to trust him, no matter how challenging my life is at that moment.
In tenth grade, I sang, “I have decided to follow Jesus,” and meant it. While my heart was in the right place, however, my head was not. The older I grew, the greater importance I gave to ”practical considerations” like paying bills, filling retirement accounts, and saving money. I realized that rather than following Jesus, I had begun asking Him to follow me, by blessing my plans, my goals, and my ambitions. Fortunately, I recognized my folly, and did a 180.
Lately, I’ve been asking God to show himself as Jehovah Jireh, the LORD my provider (Genesis 22:13). A few weeks ago, I heard God reply, saying, “If you’ll obey, I’ll provide.” He seemed very specific about the order of those words: you obey first, and I’ll provide next. As I received these words in my Spirit, it dawned on me that I’d slipped back into old habits, holding tighter to the things He’d blessed me with than to God himself. I knew I’d been working for this client long past my God-given due date, but justified doing so in the name of - you guessed it! - bills. This realization brought me to my knees, as I asked for his forgiveness, and the faith to obey him at any cost. Now I’m redirecting my focus on his will for my career, rather than my bank account.
I still haven’t gotten the financial relief I need. My client hasn’t coughed up the money they owe, and we’ve rented our home to another family who can afford it. I’ve sold my car, my furniture, and a fair share of my wardrobe – all to save a buck. It’s both humbling and sad.
In spite of these losses, however, I’m on stronger spiritual and emotional footing than before. Not only am I not stressed about whether God will provide, I’m also not rushing to fill a monetary void by doing whatever I “need to do” in order to make ends meet. I’ve been offered other jobs and clients, but each time I bring these opportunities before God, he says no. He’s placed me in this season for a reason: to know and trust him more. And as I wait on him to meet our needs, He does; like manna from heaven, one day at a time.
Every day, I have to choose between faith and fear. This season has shown me that my gut reaction, fear, is a waste of time and energy. Choosing faith is always the best option, since my future, plans, and very life are in God’s hands.
Denise Gitsham Jones is a recovering attorney who recently relocated to Austin, Texas with her husband, Josh, and their two golden retrievers.