Two years ago, I was given the opportunity, through an organization on my campus, to go to Ft. Wayne Theological Seminary for spring break. I was not a part of this organization, but the trip was free, and I didn’t want to go home for a second spring break in a row (I mean, how lame would that be?).
Getting to Ft. Wayne was a complete miracle, and the week I spent there was easily the worst week of my life. I was met from all sides by opposition to my faith. I had a demonic dream. My boyfriend (at the time) quit talking to me for no reason halfway through the week. The group I was a part of was expected to do work that we were not prepared for, that some of us had no skills for, at a pace that was fairly unrealistic. The very lowest point was when I was denied communion and on top of that, denied the chance to talk to the pastor myself about my beliefs.
It was a nightmare. I felt alone. I felt hopeless. There was nothing more that I wanted than to pack up and go home.
At the end of the week, it became clear that I had no way of getting back to Nebraska. I was the only student who had gone from my school, which is why the journey there had been so convoluted (I had to go to St. Louis and spend a weekend there before going on to Ft. Wayne). I was bought a bus ticket, for which I had to reimburse the organization. So – not a free trip after all.
The route I was on took me through the south side of Chicago, where I had a layover for a couple of hours. I had with me a duffle bag, a back pack, a pillow, and some expensive electronics. I had no one with me and I was a young woman in a strange place.
Needless to say, I was terrified.
As I was waiting for my bus to be called so I could get in line, I noticed a young man with a Washburn guitar case. The reason I noticed him was that I have a Washburn myself, and had yet to meet anyone else who had one as well. I debated for a while whether I should talk to him or not. He was fairly intimidating, the kind of build that most people wouldn’t mess with – broad shoulders, shaved head, looked fairly muscular.
While I was waffling back and forth, I noticed that he was in line for my bus. So I got up and stood in line behind him. With a hammering heart and a dry throat, I said, “You have a Washburn?”
He turned around, a smile lighting up his face. “Yeah, I do. Well, it’s not in here; it’s at home. I have another guitar in here.”
“Oh, neat,” I said.
“Yeah,” he continued, “I use it to lead a praise band at my church.”
Relief flooded through my veins. I knew I was safe. I instantly knew God had sent me a huge blessing He introduced himself to me as Jon, and we continued to talk as we boarded our bus. He helped me with my luggage and then sat with me as we kept talking about life, faith, and Jesus.
I don’t remember exactly what we talked about. I do know that it was the most uplifting, encouraging, edifying conversation I have ever had. I was almost in tears because I knew God had provided this blessing after the week of extreme discouragement I had faced. I knew God was working through Jon to keep me safe, both physically and spiritually.
We parted ways in the wee hours of the morning at Des Moines, where Jon got off to continue his journey to Kansas. We had exchanged numbers and he made me promise I would let him know when I made it safely to my destination, which was comforting to me. The rest of my journey was without excitement, but the blessing God had given me was lasting. I had found another brother in Christ.
Shortly after our friendship began, Jon asked me to write for his ministry – 10:31 Life Ministries. I was honored and humbled by the opportunity. He was offering me exactly the opposite of what I had been experiencing that year: a chance to talk openly of what I believed and share it with others without the worry of being ostracized, demonized, and berated. I had a safe place where I could celebrate my faith with others of similar beliefs.
Writing this final devotion (if I may even call it that) is bittersweet. Bitter, because working with 10:31 has been one of the biggest blessings of my life; sweet, because I know God has greater things in store. He has brought this together in miraculous ways for His glorious purpose. He gave us gifts and talents to be used for His glory, and they were. And now, they will be used elsewhere.
I will never be able to comprehend the way that God worked to bring Jon and this ministry into my life. I never would have planned it that way, especially the week preceding. But God’s plans are greater. Whatever fires we may face in life, He will provide for us while we feel no hope in the flames. He may not always put the fire out, but He does promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us always, His hand of provision is upon us. I know – I experienced it firsthand.
This week marks the two year anniversary of Jon and I’s friendship. It marks two years of struggle for me, to find a place where I was no longer bitter over what happened that week. The wounds have been difficult to heal. They are frequently reopened. I’m still in the fire, and perhaps I will be walking on coals my entire life. But God is still with me, no matter how difficult it gets. It’s not just that He is with me, but that He is working through people in my life to draw me nearer to Him, even when I feel that others are trying to push me away from Him.
God will never stop providing for me. He will never stop providing for you, either. He has endless resources and infinite knowledge of how things will be. He is greater than everything. Nothing can stand in His way. When life becomes difficult and all hope is lost, cling to God. Cry out to Jesus. He knows your need, and He will provide for you.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From His temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to Him reached His ears.”