“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” 1 Samuel 7:12
Here in 1 Samuel, Israel has just walked through a season of repentance and God has delivered them from their enemies in battle. So Samuel sets up a stone of remembrance – something tangible for the people to look at and be reminded of God’s goodness, care, and provision. This week we’ve been rehearsing our own personal Ebenezer stones and our prayer is that you’ve been encouraged to remember God’s goodness, care, and provision in your life in the most unexpected ways, even as you’ve read about it in ours.
My Ebnezers are a distinct set of experiences and I thought I’d share the first one of my adult life. I’d seen God provide for my family in countless ways while growing up, but this experience was the first time it was personal to me. It was big and it served to remind me that God is capable of literally anything.
I had just graduated from college and was in the thick of raising support for a year-long assignment with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in New Zealand. Though I was confident that this was what God was calling me to and was so excited about the future, raising support was stretching my faith in ways it had never before been stretched.
I was meeting with friends, family, and referred strangers to describe what God had called me to in New Zealand and asking them to join my team, whether in prayer or financially. Obviously, both types of support are vital, but I was at the point in the summer where I needed to hit some significant financial milestones in order to move forward with the plan to move halfway around the world in September, and the pressure was intense.
If you’ve never raised support, the emotional toll it can take is hard to describe in a way that will make sense… so you’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s hard! It brings a new realization to your soul that you really and truly are dependent on the Lord’s sustaining power and grace. You see in real-time that your efforts aren’t the real catalyst for provision and that His care for you isn’t dependent on anything you can “do.” It’s a sweet season. A freeing season. A terrifying season.
I’d just had a conversation about what funds I needed to have raised by the end of a particular week and hung up wondering how in the world it was going to happen. I can vividly recall literally laying down on my face in my living room, crying and praying, asking the Lord to clearly provide or clearly close the door for this incredible opportunity.
I continued on with the week, had a few appointments, and saw some more financial commitments, but as the week drew to a close, I knew it wasn’t enough. I wondered what my coach would say or if there was any way we could stretch the deadline out a few more days. That afternoon I got online to sync my record keeping program with Cru headquarters & saw that a large check had come in. In fact, when I saw the check I thought, “This has to be a mistake.” My heart started racing and I clicked through several screens to get to the information I was looking for. There it was. My account had received a donation of $5,000. Five thousand dollars. Who in the world had given me $5,000?!
Turns out, it was an anonymous donation. Are you kidding me?
I went into problem-solving mode, “Seriously, this has to be a mistake from someone at headquarters – surely whoever it came from meant to give $50. Or maybe $500. But not $5,000.” I called headquarters immediately and asked all of my questions and they assured me it was not only the correct amount but that it was also entirely anonymous. “Can I send a thank you note to you and have you pass it on?” “No, when someone gives anonymously they don’t want a thank you note, ma’am.”
I was incredulous, to say the least – $5,000 put me at the EXACT level I needed to be by the end of the week in order to purchase plane tickets for New Zealand.
You may be reading this and thinking, “This isn’t really that big of a deal,” but let me assure you that as a 21-year old, freshly graduated young adult who had spent the summer asking God to provide, this was absolutely stunning. God showed up in the most unexpected way, with absolutely impeccable timing. Do you know that in all of my praying and asking Him to provide, I had never once thought to ask Him for an anonymous donor? Who would have thought to ask for that? But that’s what He did! He didn’t need my ideas or schemes for finding a wealthy businessman with a heart for reaching the nations. He didn’t need me to sweat it out in 20 support meetings in that last week before my deadline. He simply provided. Exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.
Talk about an Ebenezer stone: “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
Since that experience nearly 12 years ago, the Lord has continued to show up and provide in crazy, unexpected ways. In fact, it’s kind of His modus operandi. But this was the first time I felt it in a personal way. This was the God of the universe providing for me personally. A gift of complete grace that I had done absolutely nothing to earn. It was lavish because He is generous.