Trust God in all circumstances
In 1999, after a period of prayer and discernment about my career, I decided to leave a large law firm and start my own practice. As part of the process, we decided to leave Virginia and move back to Minnesota where my family lived. We bought a house in Minnesota, I rented an office there, and we moved. The firm started doing business in 2000.
The first year was very difficult. I did not bring any clients with me. I had a couple of cases that the clients kept me working on after the transition, but I was basically starting fresh. Generating new clients and business is a slow process.
Running my own business was a significant change from working for a large corporate law firm that paid me a regular salary and provided benefits. In the year 2000, my tax return shows gross income of just over $20,000. I had a mortgage, office rent, insurance premiums, car payments, and other bills and expenses. It was a challenging year.
Having made the decision to start my own firm from a posture of prayer, discernment and desire to do God’s will, I did have confidence that He would take care of us. Each month, however, the bills came due. Would there be money to pay them?
What I discovered in a practical way during 2000 was that God is worthy of trust. The check always came on time — for months I literally received a check on the very day I needed it. I was able to pay all of our bills on time. God sent new work when I needed it. And God sent people into our lives that would be a great blessing for me and my family for years to come. God used the early years of my law firm to train me in the crucible of trust.
Fast forward to the start of 2018. Little did I know that I was being placed in the crucible again.
After moving back to Virginia in 2002, over the next fifteen years the firm had grown to nine attorneys, six staff and three offices around the country. The year 2018, however, started with the departure of a junior attorney and was followed with the sudden resignation of my most senior and long-serving attorney. As the year progressed, the shock waves continued. Our cases dried up. Clients sent work to other law firms. Just when I thought things were stabilizing, my second most senior and long-serving attorney resigned. At one point during the crisis, a friend asked my wife how I was doing. Her reply? “Well, he hasn’t talked about killing himself.” It was tough!
Things continued to change quickly. The loss in revenue made it impossible to support our overhead. I found a new tenant to sublet my Austin office space and negotiated a buy out of my office leases in Los Angeles and Northern Virginia. I had to lay off several staff. Others resigned. Slowly we brought long-term vendor contracts to a close that no longer fit our needs and found newer vendors to partner with who were willing to be flexible with a smaller organization.
As things progressed through 2018 and 2019, I began to describe the process as flying a large airplane through a terrible storm. The storm was forcing a rapid descent and the plane was being buffeted heavily. I was concerned that we would crash straight into the ground.
In the midst of this difficult trial, I had to make a choice. Would I continue to trust in God in the face of this adversity? Would I continue to obey God even if He did not appear to be answering my prayers?
Talking to a friend about the situation one night, I declared my choice -- having made a decision to serve God I was not going to turn back now. “I am not going back.” I was going to trust Him no matter how things turned out — “even if” things did not go the way I wanted them to.
I found strength for this commitment in the Bible. The life of Job, who resolved to trust God in the midst of his fiery trials, provided inspiration during the most difficult of times: “Although he should kill me, I will trust in him.”1
I was also encouraged by the preaching of my spiritual mentor, who admonished us that we must serve God even if he does not seem to answer our prayers. This was the lesson of the three young men in the Book of Daniel who refused to bow down to the golden image and were thrown into the fiery furnace as a result. They replied to the king that even if God did not save them from the furnace, they would not serve his god or worship the golden statue!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”2
Into the fire they went! But God sent an angel to protect them, and they walked out of the fiery furnace unharmed, praising God.
Things gradually calmed down and stabilized. By the beginning of March 2020, I realized that the plane had pulled its nose up at the last minute and made a soft landing. The firm was now two lawyers, two staff, and no offices. We were an entirely virtual law firm. Things were financially stable.
And then the country was locked down for COVID. No one was expecting that.
I was immediately thankful to God for having positioned the law firm for the pandemic. Looking back now, I can see clearly that God was positioning me and my law firm in anticipation of the pandemic. In fact, He re-shaped the firm in multiple ways that make us a better organization, that help us to more effectively serve our clients, and to be a good employer for the people who work for us. Only God could have known how to restructure my business for the surprises we faced in 2020 and to make us a better organization. I certainly was not mentally prepared to downsize and radically change the firm voluntarily in the ways that turned out to be necessary to get where we need to be.
How do you develop trust in God? It has to be developed through experience. We have to experience in our concrete circumstances of life that God is faithful. That He will provide. That He can be trusted. It is in the crucible that we grow in our trust in God.
Those of us who choose to follow Christ will have to face the cross at some point in our lives. Just like gold is refined in the fire, so will all of us be purified in the crucible.3 St. Peter tells us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.”4 The trials we go through help perfect us spiritually.5 Even better, there is a reward for those who are patient in trials: "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him."6
Fortunately, we do not live our entire lives in the crucible! There are times of peace and calm. We can continue to strengthen our trust in God during those times by being thankful for what God has done in our life. Call to mind those times when God came through for you. Give Him thanks for it. Remember answered prayers. Give Him thanks for it. Ponder when God has rescued you or delivered you. Give Him thanks for it. Keep in the front of your mind the blessings of God in your life and your trust in Him will grow.
It is also important in these difficult times in which spiritual warfare is raging all around us to take a stand and declare our trust in God. Psalm 91 is called “Assurance of God’s Protection.” The psalm is a powerful prayer for protection and spiritual warfare. I recommend that you take the time to read it prayerfully. It starts with this declaration:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.’”7
Finally, we have the assurance of not only God’s protection but also God’s blessing if we place our trust in Him. The prophet Jeremiah proclaims a prophetic blessing on those who put their trust in God:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”8
I pray that you would have the courage to place your trust in the Lord, for He is faithful. To make the commitment to follow Him even if things do not appear to be going your way. Go ahead and declare out loud, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Then, have faith in the Word of God that Jeremiah’s prophetic word would be applied to you.
May the power of the Holy Spirit enable you to place your trust in Him. I make this prayer for you today to the Father in the Name of Jesus. Amen.
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1 Pet. 1:6-7 (“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”).
James 1:2-4 (RSV-CE) (“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”).