When it all falls apart
“What did he say?” I turned from the newscast to the man next to me.
It was early fall of 2008, and I sat in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, watching the news in French.
As my college French professor will attest, there is no more pointless undertaking than me doing anything in French. But the graph behind the newscaster told me all I needed to know: the US economy was plunging toward earth in flames.
I was entering my 7th year working for an international development organization that provided services to people with disabilities in low and middle income countries. In my role as a program officer for the US office, I got to travel around the world, making a difference through my work and meeting interesting people like ministers of health in various countries such as the Central African Republic.
But I knew if the US economy was as bad as that French newscaster said, no one – not even the institutional donors who paid my salary – would give enough to keep us afloat. Our organization – or at least, my job – would soon be toast. I was right about both. It was time to make a new plan.
Now, I excel at planning. (It’s the execution I falter on, but we can’t all be perfect.) And having traveled extensively, I knew where I would plan to go next: Latin America. I would sell my house during the worst housing market in living memory to pack up my two kids, my aging mother, and our dog then move us all south of the border.
Like salmon, we would go against the current. God would empower us. I had faith.
And sure enough, God came through and things went swimmingly … at first.
I sold my house in the US despite the atrocious market, and I found a job in Guatemala City. If everything continued to work as I had planned, we’d land in Guatemala in July with a job for me and some money in the bank.
It was May when my carefully planned vessel sprang the first leak. I got a call from my new employer. The resources for the job weren’t coming through. The economy had impacted everyone, etc. They were sorry.
Somehow, in the worst housing market since the Great Depression, I’d managed to sell my house and all my stuff and convince my family to move to another country. It had to be God’s doing. But at the critical moment, it all went awry like the best laid plans of mice and men.
I was about to be homeless, jobless, and plan-less with three other people and a dog depending on me. God could have executed this plan a little better, I thought. My faith gave way to fear.
Conversation with God
The next Monday, I walked into my office, shut the door, and informed God I needed to meet with Him.
“You clearly made everything happen from the French newscast to the near-miraculous sale of the house,” I told Him. “No one else could have done that. Now, you’ve left me here: a job about to end, no home, and no plan for what to do next.”
God didn’t say anything.
He’d heard much the same complaints a long time ago when “the Israelites said, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3, NIV)
I offered God some suggestions for how we might not starve, hoping something would goad Him into action.
Finally, I stopped talking long enough to hear God ask me a question. “What do you want to do?”
I gave Him a mealy-mouthed Sunday School answer about wanting to do His will. I’m pretty sure God rolled His eyes at me. I think He does that a lot, actually, so I decided to answer Him honestly.
“I want to go to Guatemala.”
“Then make it happen,” God replied. And I felt a measure of faith return.
That same day, I found an open teaching position for which I qualified in a Guatemalan city called Quetzaltenango. I filled out the application that night and faxed it off the next day. Within 15 minutes of sending the application, I had a response. Two days later, I had an interview. Two weeks later, I had a contract. Two months later, we landed in Guatemala – me, my two boys, my aging mother, and the dog.
And so began the three best years of our lives.
God gave us a place, a position, and a lifestyle we all relished much more than we would have enjoyed the original plan. What I saw as a stop sign, God saw as a necessary detour to something beyond my expectations. While I was complaining about being led into the desert to die, God must have been chuckling behind His hand, knowing how much I would enjoy what He had planned for me.What I saw as a stop sign, God saw as a necessary detour to something beyond my expectations. -Holland Webb Click To Tweet
“Trust in the Lord,” the writer of Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Key thought: Trust in the Lord. Take the detour.
Holland Webb, Contributing Writer
Holland Webb is a full-time freelance writer living in Simpsonville, SC. He’s previously lived in seven states and two foreign countries, doing anything he can legally get by with. As a professional, Holland has written for brands such as U.S. News & World Report, iLendX, Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, MediaFusion, Modkat, Sweet Fish Media, IMPACT Water, and Mindsets.
He also enjoys contributing devotionals to publications like Keys for Kids and Devozine, and his copywriting column appears on Almost An Author. You can reach him at www.hollandwebb.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Linked In.
More Stories of Reaching Beyond Fear into Faith in Christ
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Redefining Fear by Jennifer Cotney
Flying Through the Air with Faith by Amy Merritt
Faith, Fear, and Fire Hydrants by Chip Mattis
The Dreaded F Word by Norma Poore
His Hope in the Darkness by Alynda Long