This past summer, I went through a pretty tough mental, emotional, and spiritual struggle. I had been taking courses toward a degree in Software Engineering, and I was due to graduate in about 5 months. My job at that time was as a middle school teacher, and I was conflicted over whether I wanted to start another school year – I didn’t want to teach another year, but if I started the year I knew I would have to finish it. My preference was to try and get a software developer job instead, so on July 21st, I went to my principal and officially submitted my resignation. It was a very tough decision to make, because my wife was not working, we had a nice house (with a mortgage…), and a daughter to take care of. I wasn’t 100% sure I could get a job as a programmer, since I hadn’t finished my degree and had absolutely no professional experience. We were really going out on a limb, with little more than faith in God and hope that He would take care of us.
This kind of ‘blind-faith’ action is pretty rare for me. I, personally, am not the kind of guy to “let go and let God,” so to speak. I prefer to try and handle problems myself on my own strength and wisdom – asking God to help me with my problems has always seemed like I was asking God to make life easy, and He never promised to make life easy. So instead of asking or placing any faith in Him in my circumstances, I just handled my problems myself. For this reason, I wasn’t sure it was the right choice to quit my teaching job to look for another job, with no guarantee of any such job in the near future (or at all).
At the end of this post, I’ll share what has happened since then, but before that, I want to share some of the things I have come across in the last few days that talk about this seeming conflict between placing faith in God and trusting Him to help us through our struggles, and doing things on our own in an attempt at being successful at whatever it is we are trying to do.
One of the only Christian authors I have every read and actually enjoyed learning theological truths from is Don Miller. A friend recommended reading Blue Like Jazz, and I enjoyed it so much I also bought his next one Searching for God Knows What. When I started blogging, I looked around to see what other blogs were out there, and I came across Don’s blog at donmilleris.com. I usually read his posts every weekday (when I’m at work and I actually get on a computer), and he has posted a couple of great essays recently about stuff related to this topic. On April 28, he wrote a post titled How To Get Confidence from God, where he explains how he believes that in order to gain confidence in any area, we must do more than just pray and expect God to just magically give us the ability to do whatever it is we want to be confident at doing. That’s just not Biblical. Instead, we must gain experience through practice. Miller says “God employs experience in order to teach us, to develop our abilities. And even then, He is more interested in the interaction He has with us in the process than He is in teaching us anything at all.” And Miller uses the life of David as an example of this – “God gave David confidence keeping lions from his sheep, then killing Goliath, then running a country, God did not give David a country and then instill in him magical confidence.” I agree with this wholeheartedly.
Another great Christian blog (written by another great Christian author) is Stuff Christians Like, written by Jonathan Acuff. Today Jon wrote a post (which is what inspired me to write this post) titled Being Lazy for the Lord. In it, Jon talks about how sometimes people say “I’m not going to send out any resumes. I’m just going to pray and trust God to find me a job” or “I want to be married, but I’m not going to try to meet a spouse or get involved in the singles group at church. I’m going to pray God will bring that person into my life” or “Our finances are a mess, but I’m not going to take a class in financial responsibility or make amends. I’m going to pray God will rescue us from this pit.” It may sound like we are displaying great faith by saying something like this, but Jon points out that a lot of times “…we’re lazy and we try to pretend we’re being holy.” He uses the example of Nehemiah to show how to balance faith and action in tough circumstances. In that story, Nehemiah is rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, even though he is being threatened about being attacked if he continues. Nehemiah prays, but instead of praying and just waiting on God to deliver them from the threat, he arms his men and they continue working. Jon quotes Nehemiah 4:16-18: “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” That is just awesome – they had a hammer in one hand and sword in the other.
Both of these authors have been fun to read and great to learn from. I think they have hit the nail right on the head in this area – faith and prayer alone are not enough. If you want success, you must also take action. This isn’t to say that faith and prayer are not important – “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). There has to be a balance between faith/prayer and your own responsibility for your outcome. Learning exactly where the fulcrum is on that balanced scale takes experience.
So what about my story of quitting my job on faith that God would provide, and looking for a new job in an area where I was not fully education, had no experience, and was just generally unqualified? Well, I’ll tell you that we had a lot of discussions about this in my house during the 5 months between quitting my teaching job and getting hired by the company I work for now. I didn’t get a paycheck for 4 of those months, so you can guess how stressful things got. There were even a few arguments between my wife and I over the balance between faith and action. But in the end, God was more than faithful. We didn’t default on our home loan (it sold at just the right time). We didn’t go without shelter or food (thanks to some compassionate in-laws). And I was hired at a wonderful company getting paid more than I expected. But this came after filling out hundreds of application, sending out hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes, paying to get my resume re-written professionally, and interviewing with multiple companies. Only looking back can I say that I can see where the perfect balance between faith and action is. Hopefully next time, I can use this experience to keep from getting stressed out when hardships come around. And I believe they will. I just have to keep my hammer in one hand and my sword in the other.