Why is it that we so often look to ourselves or to friends first to find a solution to a problem or situation before we turn to God and seek His help? Over the past several decades we’ve been fed so much “self-help” advice in our culture (and even through our churches) that we practically spew it out in our sleep. Here’s a sample of what it entails: “Concepts and terms originating in self-help culture and Twelve-Step culture, such as recovery, dysfunctional families, and codependency have become firmly integrated in mainstream language” (quote source here). However, self-help concepts and Biblical principles are often at odds with each another, but they have become enmeshed in today’s church culture, and too often “self-help” concepts trump biblical principles.
On several occasions, I have discussed my current housing situation that I honestly don’t know how to resolve at this point in time (re: living in a hotel while trying to find low income housing for almost four years now on a very low income) with a Christian friend of mine who always answers with the same advice. The advice I get from my friend is that I am “not a victim” (and I’ve never said I was a victim nor have I ever used the term in reference to myself; however, it is frequently used in the “self-help” culture language), and my friend also said that I could make any changes I wanted to make regarding my housing situation if I really wanted to change my situation bad enough (which is another “self-help” concept implying that I don’t want to change my situation). I humorously told my friend to send me lots of money and I could resolve my housing situation immediately. Not once has this friend ever mentioned seeking God’s help in my housing search (however, I do seek God’s help all the time).
The details of my housing search for the past almost four years can pretty much be summed up in my most recent experience at a senior apartment complex I inquired about regarding an ad I found stating low income apartments were available at their complex. When I arrived to inquire about their low income apartments, I was told that there were no low income apartments available nor would there be for at least a year, and they already had a waiting list started if I wanted to place my name on it. When I asked to be placed on the waiting list I was told that a $250 deposit had to be paid upfront in order to be placed on their waiting list. Also, there was no guarantee that I’d secure an apartment in the foreseeable future, so I declined. My housing search has been a never-ending cycle of going nowhere fast.
For a Christian (or anyone seeking the God found in the Bible), it is paramount that we seek God’s help first in every area of our lives and not just in the tough situations. And fortunately, the Bible doesn’t take a “self-help” approach to situations we find ourselves in that we can’t help ourselves get out of on our own. In fact, Proverbs 3:5-6 states the following:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
And that’s the antithesis of “self-help.” So let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about God’s help and provision because we sure aren’t going to find it from the culture-at-large.
When you put your faith in Christ, God commissions himself to protect, provide, and care for you (Philippians 4:19). God always provides for his children, though often it is not in the way we expect or hope.
The challenge is for us to see his provision and care, even when it is different than we expect. Because God is God, his ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). But he graciously gives us insight into what he is doing in the Scriptures.
John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, but you may be aware of three of them.” Over and over again, Jesus’s disciples missed what he was doing right in front of them. They missed the point of the miracles. They missed the lessons. Which should give us hope for our own lack of clarity today. Here are four important encouragements about how God provides and cares for you.
1. God May Provide Differently Than We Expect
The Israelites escaped captivity in Egypt only to face the challenges of the desert. One of the biggest challenges for such a large group of nomads was enough food to eat. Over and over again God provided supernaturally for his people. If God could provide for many thousands of Israelites in the middle of a desert, he can surely provide for you and your family’s needs. One of the precious testimonies of Scripture is, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25).
But even with God’s supernatural provision, the Israelites still complained and grumbled in the desert. They longed for the food they left behind in Egypt. God was literally providing bread from heaven — enough for each day — but they wanted his provision a different way. They wanted it their own way.
This lesson has spoken to me over the years. Ask God to provide for you in whatever way he deems fit. Don’t grumble against God’s supernatural, unexpected ways.
Maybe you are at a job and doing work different than what you had expected or hoped for. Don’t always wish for something different. Don’t constantly dream about being somewhere else, doing something else. Be present. Give your all to your current job, and always be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This doesn’t mean you can’t move towards the job of your dreams, but it might inspire the faith to stop complaining about the way God has provided for you in the current moment, and instead invest yourself fully wherever you are.
2. God Provides More of Himself
Our greatest need is for more of God, and this is something he gladly gives us. [Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount]:
“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–11)
Scripture tells us to make the pursuit of God the primary function of our lives. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
John Piper has asked, “What is the deepest root of your joy? What God gives to you? Or what God is to you?” God graciously guides us into a greater realization that our ultimate need is for more of his word, more of his ways—more of him.
3. God’s Ultimate Provision Has Already Been Given in the Gospel
We ask God for many things, but the greatest thing we could ever receive from him has already been given. What God has given us in the gospel is light-years ahead of every other provision and care we could ever seek from him. When we trust in Christ, we have decisively secured for us every ultimately good thing from him. It’s just a matter of time.
James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Every truly good thing in our lives comes straight from the Father. The ultimate good he provided us, through whom much of the other good things come to us, is Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate treasure.
4. God Provides Finally in Eternity
Hebrews 11 gives us two different perspectives on God’s provision and care for us. Some, by faith, came through this life victorious, while others lost their lives. Both are commended for their mighty faith.
God does not always provide and care for us in ways we might expect in this life. The Bible does not promise this. Peter, James, John, and Paul gave their very lives for the gospel. They viewed the gospel as a treasure not to be lost at any cost. They suffered gladly because they had something in the gospel that had far more worth.
This life is fleeting. This life is fragile. This life is but a vapor’s breath. The next life, the age to come, is where all God’s provision and care for us will ultimately make sense and come together as a whole.
We may not receive healing in this life, but we will receive perfect healing in eternity. We may not see answers to our greatest prayers in this life, but we will receive fully in eternity. Some days God’s provision and care may seem distant, but it will be ever-present in eternity. We long for our world to stop raging and be at peace, but ultimate peace will only come in eternity.
Our hearts ache under the pressures of this life, but it is only because we were made for another world. We are sojourners and aliens on this earth. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). (Quote source here.)
The following article is a personal account of God’s provision titled, “Divine Provision–God’s Way or Mine?” by Dr. Jolene Erlacher, wife and mother, author of “Millennials in Ministry,” speaker, college instructor, and founder of Leading Tomorrow:
My husband and I had been married two-and-a-half years. During that time, we had been separated for 18 months due to military training and a deployment. We had also experienced two interstate moves, finished a doctoral dissertation and a Master’s thesis, bought a house, and had a job transition. Our hearts felt taxed by the separations, change, and stress. Now, eight-months pregnant with twins, we learned that my husband was most likely losing his job. He had confronted an unethical situation in his unit and was being punished. The stress of the past several years began to engulf me and in my tired state, I did not have the energy to fight back.
We prayed. No, actually, we begged God with tears and anguish to save my husband’s job. After all, he had done the right thing. He had sought to honor God and others and now he was experiencing injustice. We were about to welcome two little people into our family. It was not the ideal time to be without an income. Worry plagued my waking and sleeping hours. I felt it like a dark cloud, sapping the joy out of life. Despite the many times I had seen God’s hand at work in my life, I felt doubt. Would God prove faithful? Would He provide? Friends and family tried to encourage me that God was in control and His ways are best, but there was no solution acceptable to me other than God rescuing my husband’s career.
The weeks passed; our babies were born. We had two beautiful, healthy girls. My life became a haze of sleeping for 60-90 minutes between feedings and diaper changes. As my husband came home from work each day, I barely had the energy to hear the latest update. Hope for his career faded daily. Finally, when the girls were two-months-old, he came home from work with the boxes containing his belongings. He hung up the uniform he had worn for almost 18 years. At first, it seemed surreal. My definition of God’s faithfulness and provision could not bear the weight of our reality. I had a choice. Would I cling to my view that God should have rescued my husband’s job, or would I just let go and trust? I had to let go.
My husband began applying for other jobs. As we waited, we spent our days holding babies, talking, reading, praying, watching movies, and sleeping. Peace, even joy, began to seep back into our hearts and minds. Even as every potential job opportunity seemed to slipped away, we recognized and appreciated the gift of time together, something we had longed for in the first months of our marriage. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Our spending habits changed, our savings grew thin. Still we waited. I watched as my husband fell in love with our daughters. I grew to appreciate the help with two little ones. We worked on writing and home improvement projects. Then, after five months of unemployment, we received the call. Funding had been approved for a civilian job at my husband’s old headquarters. The department head, knowing his skills, was requesting him for the position. They were going to bypass the interview process. If he wanted the job, it was his.
God had provided. It was not my way or in my timing. No, indeed, my way would have deprived us of quality family time. It would have robbed my husband of an invaluable opportunity to bond with his infant daughters. My definition of God’s provision would have left my husband in a stressful job, rather than giving him time to recover from a discouraging season and placing him in a role where he is fulfilled and appreciated. My definition of God’s provision needed redefining. The girls just turned one. As I reflect on this past year, I am grateful for the gift of learning once again that God’s ways ARE higher than mine. The truth of Psalm 37 is alive; our God does provide for His children… in His own and perfect ways. (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with a verse I quoted above from Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding . . .
In all your ways submit to him . . .
And he will make . . .
Your paths straight . . . .
YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean: