Agreeing to write this article has been an interesting journey of faith. When we talked about it, we thought it might be fun to write something together. After all, we have been married for more than 35 years, so we have had a lot of shared experiences. We are empty nesters now, too, so one would think we’d have time to think and discuss and write. However, as the weeks went by, neither of us seemed to be able to come up with a workable idea. We asked people to pray for us. Still nothing. Finally, as the deadline approached, we said, “Well, what do you do when you pray, but you don’t seem to understand what the answer is?”
And then we kind of had to laugh. Many times over the years we’ve prayed and had a hard time understanding God’s answers. Most of the time in Christian circles one hears about the miraculous answers to prayer, but probably more often God works through circumstances to change us rather than changing circumstances to fit what we think we need.
Let us give you an example. In 1989 we felt that the little two-bedroom home we had purchased in 1982 was just too small for our growing family. We’d had our third child in 1985, and three kids (two girls and one boy) in the same bedroom was getting just a little crowded. We prayed about it and put our home on the market. Well, those of you who are older know this was about the time the housing market bottomed out. We ended up selling our home for less than we had paid for it. Not only that, we had not found another place to buy, or even rent. It was July, and we had two family reunions to attend. So we moved all our stuff to a storage unit, packed our car for a trip, and took off on vacation. The reunions were fun—one in Idaho, the other in California—but in the background was the knowledge that we had no place to go “home” to. We had family in Newberg looking for a rental for us, but nothing seemed available.
We finally learned of someone going on vacation for whom we could house-sit a couple of days when we got back. Then we were taken in by cousins and siblings and finally got a lead on a house in Dundee that might be available to rent in early September. So we started our kids in school in Dundee and were able to get that rental. But it was a hard time for us faithwise. Adding to the difficulty was knowing other young couples who had sold their houses just before or after we did, who were then able to move on to nicer homes, sharing stories of how God had provided just the right things at the right times. Why hadn’t God done the same for us?
Through many questioning, tearful days and nights we began to talk more about choosing to praise God in spite of circumstances, choosing to be thankful for what God provided, even when it was different from what we wanted. We also chose to try to focus less on ourselves and pray more for others. Perhaps Romans 12:2—“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”—isn’t so much about shunning the lustful desires we consider “worldly.” Perhaps it has more to do with focusing on the goodness of God, so that we can meet the challenge of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Over the years we’ve had many similar opportunities to practice the choice to praise God and trust his wisdom, even when circumstances are trying. It was good to have to learn to practice that early in our marriage. Though our housing situation didn’t have the sort of “miraculous” outcome we might have desired, God used it to shape and change us. Though we can’t always see or understand what God is doing, with the Holy Spirit’s help we can still choose to trust that he is good and kind. And though we thought we didn’t have an idea for this article, here we are at the end of writing it. Isn’t God amazing?
Scott and Susan finally found a house to purchase and have lived there for twenty years. They have four adult children—three of whom are married—and four grandchildren. They feel quite spoiled because all of them live in Newberg! Scott has attended Newberg Friends since 1962, Susan since 1975.