I recently found myself getting hit with anxiety and guilt over something that was totally in my head. It turns out that deep down, I believe God wants me to suffer. You know, for my growth, to keep me humble and spiritual. But thanks to some great friends, I realized that’s NOT always true. He also wants to provide for me, just because he loves me. I can expect Him to show up for me and receive it.
I have a lot of great people in my life, but because of COVID-19, I’ve been spending more time alone. For the most part, I’ve been OK, but the downside is that I can literally think I’m right all the time. There isn’t anyone here to tell me otherwise, and I can just get lost in my own thoughts and crazy imagination. I was hit with a big dose of reality this summer when I purchased a new car.
Like many people, I was furloughed for a while because of the pandemic. God showed up for me financially during this time. I was able to continue paying my bills, I rebuilt my short-term emergency fund, and I was starting to have some semblance of a savings account. Our company received PPP money, and I was able to go back to work.
I was driving a 2009 Kia Rio that had about 150,000 miles on it. The car was shaking when I drove over 50MPH. I was driving in the right lane in case it broke down, being grateful that my mom gives me a AAA membership each year. My commute to work was getting more and more nerve-wracking. I was researching new cars but asked God to make this car last through the end of the year because I didn’t want a car payment yet. We were still in the middle of the pandemic, after all.
On one of the hottest days of this summer, my air conditioning went out. I drove home feeling like I was in a sweat lodge. The windows were open, but there was no breeze. Sweat was dripping from me, every breath felt heavy, and I was miserable. I had to make a decision. I could continue taking money from my savings to pay for repairs and service on this car, or I could purchase a new one. I didn’t really think about it. With pit stains and all, I drove straight to the car dealer, told them what kind of car I wanted and what I was willing to pay for it. They had one car on the lot that fit what I wanted. The down payment required to get the monthly payment I wanted was 30% of what I had in my savings account. I made the down payment, signed the paperwork, and drove home.
I jolted awake in the middle of the night. This rarely happens to me. I woke up with this thought: “You didn’t trust God to get you through the end of the year with your Kia Rio.” Then I started dwelling. Maybe I should have at least gone to get a quote on the air conditioning. I’m too obsessed with my comfort. I should be driving without air conditioning. I just used 30% of my savings. What if there’s another shutdown? Here I go, being impulsive again. Here I go relying on myself instead of asking for help. I should have purchased a used car to just get me through the year without a car payment. And worst of all, I didn’t even pray first. I just went and bought the car.
It got worse the next day. I’m on the leadership team at my company, and in our weekly meeting, while going over the financials, it was obvious that the PPP money wasn’t going to be enough to get us through the year. We decided as a team that in order to keep the company going, the best thing to do was cut our salaries by 10 percent and pay for our own health benefits. So, after adding a car payment to my monthly expenses, I lost income and added the expense of my health benefits.
I went home and immediately reworked my budget. Again, no prayer. I just took matters into my own hands. I had just enough money to absorb these changes to my income and expenses but no wiggle room. I was convinced that buying the car was the worst decision I’d made in a long time. I apologized to God for not trusting Him to keep my old car running through the end of the year. I had this gnawing feeling that I had majorly screwed up. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen as a result, but I was actually avoiding driving the car. I worked myself up to a place of anxiety over this stupid car and now hated everything about it.
Thankfully years ago, when I started to learn more about God, I realized that He designed us to experience life with other people and that my independent nature isn’t always a good thing. So, I made a choice to have people in my life who I trust to speak the truth to me. And, they have my permission to speak into my life even when I don’t ask them to do so. I’m selective about this group, and it’s made up of people who are authentic and make life choices that I respect and admire.
I met one of those friends for lunch one day, and she happened to mention that she noticed and liked my new car. I immediately felt guilt and was quick to tell her that I hadn’t prayed about it first and was actually regretting the purchase. She called me that evening and said, “You know, God loves you, and He provides for you. He wants you to feel safe when you drive, and I believe he wants you to have this car.”
I have witnessed her faith in action. I know that she prays often and listens to what God is saying to her. So, when she said this to me, in addition to being grateful for her taking the time to call me, I had to stop and consider what she said.
The next morning I had my weekly Zoom call with my small group. I told them that I needed to come clean about something I’d been struggling with all week. I went through the whole story of buying the car without praying first, the salary cut, and how I felt guilty for not trusting God to get my car through the end of the year. Blah, blah, blah.
They let me finish, and then one of my friends said, “None of that is from God. God doesn’t give you guilt and regret. That is from the enemy. The enemy wants to distract you from praising God for His goodness. Do you realize that in the middle of a pandemic, after being furloughed, you had enough money for a down payment on a car that is reliable and safe? God provided for you, and you should be praising Him for that.”
BAM. She dropped a truth bomb that cleared the debris of my crazy thinking and gave me clarity. My other friend echoed her words and encouraged me to receive this gift. I immediately felt a sense of peace. As a group, we thanked God for His provision, and I began to feel grateful for my new car. In fact, I now thank God every day when I start the car.
In the months that have followed, I’ve been thinking and praying about what I refer to as the “new car incident.” How did I become so twisted in my thinking? You might even be thinking, why is she making such a big deal out of buying a new car? Well, I do have a flair for the dramatic, but I believe that God uses everything. I think He is using this to grow me and remind me of some important lessons that I’d shelved away.
We do have a spiritual enemy. I don’t like to think about it much or give it any credit, but the enemy is real. Now that I have healed from my big screw-ups in life and grown stronger in my faith, I think the enemy has become more subtle in his attempts to separate me from God. And what a way to do it. He invaded my thoughts and used my fear of being alone without any money against me. By not thanking and praising God for His provision, I was saying that I didn’t trust Him to provide for me.
God isn’t always asking us to suffer. Somewhere deep inside of me, I still believe that suffering honors God. Although short-lived, I actually believed that driving around feeling miserable in a hot shaky car would put me in God’s good graces. But I know this isn’t true. My actions don’t save me. Jesus saved me, and I have already experienced God’s grace. In Galatians 2:21, Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”
God is a provider. I’m still wrestling with this one. On some level, I must think that God is not providing for me because I’m still single and would prefer to have a partner in life. I still have an insidious fear that I will end up alone and destitute if I don’t get married. There is so much that is wrong with this thinking. As you read throughout my new car story, you can see the many ways God provided for me. He is an abundant provider. I need to post Matthew 6:33-34 somewhere I can see it as a daily reminder that my future does not include God leaving me alone and indigent. It says, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”
Authentic community is critical. Contrary to my own belief, I’m not always right. Regardless of where we are in our faith journey, we will always need people in our lives to provide wisdom and discernment. I’ve been following Jesus for over twenty years now, and look how easily I became twisted and confident in my own thinking.
We tend to talk about needing friends for the big things like illness and loss, but I’ve learned that true friendship happens with the day-to-day conversations, over lunch, or a quick cup of coffee. And even on a Zoom call.
When I look back on some of my major mistakes in life, I see that I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to hurt myself or as many people as possible. It was a series of everyday choices that led me there. Having friends speak into my life on a consistent basis helps to keep me on the right path.
There’s a verse in the Bible that came up in my reading shortly after the car incident. It’s Ephesians 6:10-13. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
I’ve been blessed with life-long childhood friendships that I cherish. I have diverse friendships with people who provide me with a variety of perspectives. I made a choice to seek out other women who are on the same faith journey as me. And, I’m being mentored by a brilliant woman who is a bit older and a lot wiser than me.
If you don’t have this kind of friendship, I encourage you to be intentional and aggressive about changing that. Take a brave step like going to church where people of faith hang out. Crossroads has a variety of groups that you can check out here.
When I think about God’s provision and putting on the full armor of God, I think of my close friendships. They are an important piece of my armor. They protect me from being too self-reliant and prideful. They remind me that God has my back. They laugh with me. They encourage me. And they strengthen me.
This summer, I realized that I could pray and read the Bible all day long, but without my friends dropping truth bombs, I have a big chink in my armor, and I’m much more likely to get tricked into believing lies that lead to anxiety and shame instead of remembering that the God I follow is a good father who promises to provide.