About ten years ago, the university where I served as president experienced significant financial pressure.
We did everything organizations do in times of financial duress: postponed new initiatives, cutback programs, curtailed operations, discontinued activities, delayed hiring, and worst of all, laid-off personnel.
Somebody once said that when you’re squeezed what’s inside of you comes out. It’s true. Some people responded to the pressure, even loss of their own position, in remarkable demonstrations of faith and fortitude. Others, not so much. None of this was fun.
Professionally speaking, it was the most challenging thing I’d ever endured. I remember a weekend when I literally bent over with stress pains.
Of course I prayed, perhaps like never before. And I read the Scripture, certainly like never done before. In two months I read the entire book of the Psalms—twice.
I confess that up to this time the Psalms didn’t make much sense to me. David seemed to forever be in trouble and unable to deal with it. I used to think David needed more resolve, more “toughness.”
But I began to understand the Psalms in a new way and realized my assessment of David woefully missed the mark. Until then I’d never experienced anything that stopped me where I stood. I’d finally, as we all inevitably do in life, faced something I couldn’t handle. I felt like David.
Now I saw the Lord’s teaching clearly. When we face challenges beyond our capacity God is there. When we feel like failures God’s “unfailing love” is there. When we cannot go on God’s “strong arm” is there.
A year ago I wrote about God’s “unfailing love,” a phrase repeated many times in the Psalms. Now I share the other truth the Lord taught me in the Psalms: God’s “strong arm,” his “right arm,” upholds us.
Financial duress isn’t fun. It generates stress and anxiety. But God’s strong arm undergirds us.
God teaches us many things in adversity:
--He strengthens ministries during or even because of financial challenges.
--We can grow spiritually.
--We can actually make some needed adjustments more easily.
--We can re-vision, reposition, and restructure for greater mission effectiveness.
--We can experience what it means to be part of the Church when supporters pray and give.
--We’re reminded who owns the ministry.
The Apostle Paul said God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So God’s strong arm is even stronger in the midst of financial shortfalls. Like the old hymn says, we can take heart “leaning on the everlasting arms.”
A version of this was originally published as "Encouraging Words" in "What's New With Our Family," SAT-7, Number 133, September 2010.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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