Bankrupt at Christmas

by Melinda Inman

In 1995 we went bankrupt. That year Christmas was a dark and discouraging time. We had just come through a “five-hundred year” flood and numerous catastrophes. I had quit praying. I didn’t think these things happened to Christians. Back then, we believed that if we tithed and loved the Lord, disasters would never come. The financial gurus had promised.

I had a works mentality: If I do this, God will do that. But God had other plans for us, good plans. Turns out, he’ll go right through our pocketbooks to get at our hearts.

God’s idea of what we need is usually not what we think we need. His priority is our refinement and spiritual growth. From an eternal perspective, that’s our greatest need. If he has to take away our stuff to accomplish that, he will. He has the eternal view.

In 1995, I didn’t know this yet, so I was mad at him. I shook my fist in his face. Then I quit speaking to him, certain he didn’t care. It was a lovers’ spat.

Our attempt to avoid going over the fiscal cliff had prompted my husband to take a better job, moving our family away from the city we’d lived in for our first seventeen years. In a new town, we faced bankruptcy alone. The dark hole of my grief was a chasm.

That year Christmas gifts for our kids consisted of bed sheets, socks, a Bible, and cheap plastic toys for the younger ones. We decorated the tree, went through the celebration, and contemplated the Christ child. But in my heart, anger over God’s betrayal sat like a lump of hard coal.

I hated poverty. I hated the food pantry. I hated not being able to travel to see our extended family. All of this embarrassed me. I saw every evidence of poverty as yet another reminder that God most certainly did not love me.

That was a lie. It worked in the Garden, and it worked on me. It’s Satan’s fallback lie. If you’re going through a similar trial, recognize The Lie in all its deceptive forms.

In reality, no matter how you feel, God does love you. Because he loves us, he’s always refining his children. In 1995 we didn’t know he was eradicating hypocrisy and legalism from our lives, but he was. It was a Job-like remaking of the sham of our Christian lives.

Now, twenty-three years in the future, I believe those events were the best thing God ever did for us. Before those trials, my Christianity was all about appearances and rule-keeping. I thought I was a good Christian.

Meanwhile, I was not the same person at home as I was in public. I was angry and embittered. I yelled at my kids. I lost my temper. I judged others. I thought I could bullet-point my way to spiritual maturity.

For the Lord to bring me face to face with my mess, I needed to be pulverized through trial. Because God is passionately in love with me, he initiated and undertook the task. Having put on flesh to die a gruesome death, thus proving his love, he now remakes me into a new woman. Therefore, it was impossible that he would leave me like that.

The Lord orchestrated our circumstances to refine me. Love compelled him.

He wasn’t content with my mediocrity. He loves me so much that he won’t ever sit idly by while I live a destructive and hypocritical life. His purpose was and is to transform me into the woman he has intended all along.

The same is true for you.

In the middle of my angry mess, a new neighbor invited me to a Bible study. They “just happened” to be studying: Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen? by Kay Arthur. God had placed me right where I could receive this invitation. Though I threw that book across the room numerous times, it was the beginning of the restoration.

I was changed. The Lord is still changing me. Refinement takes a lifetime. No matter how the refining occurs, God loves us fiercely. That’s why he works to cause us to grow.

When we moved to Houston in January, we knew many people here were suffering in similar manner. You may be right in the middle of this. I’m calling out to you now from the other side of the chasm:

“Hold on! God is good, and he loves you.”

Ask him for the faith to believe it. It’s true. No matter what you’re going through, God really is working this together for your good. You’re not alone. If you need to talk to someone, we’re here and available. So are others.

 
Melinda Inman and her husband Tim are new members at Crossings Community Church. They married in 1977, raised six kids, and delight in six grandkids so far. Melinda is a novelist who blogs at melindainman.com.

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