Whether I didn’t have a roommate or a husband or was out of money or patience, it always unfolded the same way, I shouted and complained about God’s timing and lack of provision. And I always got the same response: “You don’t have it yet because you don’t need it yet.” AND IT DROVE ME CRAZY!!! That consistent response was provided time and again by my professor, friend, and mentor (whether he wanted to be or not), Dr. Jeff Cook.
Freshman year I lived with his daughter and he’d come to pick her up for coffee on his motorcycle. It was months before I knew/believed that he was actually a faculty member at our conservative Baptist college! A year later he taught a summer intensive course on the Bible that I sat through for three weeks, three hours a day.
And I loved him.
I had two notebooks I’d open on my desk, one for class notes and one for worth-remembering quotes and stories he’d toss out often – not even realizing how wise and worthwhile these little rabbit trails were to my heart.
I tacked on an Urban Ministry minor just so I could spend more time with him and his family. His prayers over and with me were powerful, his classes were always an experience and he shifted my paradigm in remarkable ways in just a few years. Whatever he had to say I was willing to write down, and accept without much of a fight – EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE FRUSTRATING PHRASE: “You don’t have it yet because you don’t need it yet.”
I remember one time I responded with snot and snark, which embarrasses me to think of now. I argued not so quietly, “Oh I DON’T need it now!? In two weeks I will literally have NOWHERE TO LIVE and God is supposed to care about that! He’s supposed to care about me! He’s supposed to respond!!! WHERE IS HE?!”
And the cool-as-a-cucumber response was: “Exactly Kate. In two weeks. You don’t need Him to provide today. You need Him to respond in two weeks and He doesn’t have to respond a moment sooner, and He probably won’t.”
And damn it, Dr. Cook was right. Time and again. Through years and years of me hootin’ & hollerin’ he was right.
I didn’t get all the financial support for my missions trip till the eleventh hour. The same with job offers, leases, answers, and so much more. Always at the last minute, always right on time, always providing – but just not early enough where I could stop relying on Him. Always at the final buzzer so that I had no choice but to cry and cling and beg and rely on Him only.
Oh the feeling of finding that check in the mailbox mere minutes after I’d collapsed on the floor in fear – mere moments after I’d grabbed the edge of the kitchen sink with shaking pale hands and cried out “What am I going to do? You have to do something. I’m not gonna make it.”
That feeling over and over and over…
Relief. Release. Response.
But always provision for needs.
I love that in Scripture God has more than one name, and this week your Hopers are going to give a glimpse of what some of those Hebrew monikers mean.
“Jehoveh-Jireh” means The Lord Will Provide. Only mentioned once in Scripture, but oh the power of it’s mentioning. Back in Genesis we get to know Abraham – one of my all time favorite dudes in the Bible. A man whose story I have tattooed in bits on my skin because I ache to be as faithful to God’s promises. So, if you’re unfamiliar, here’s some backstory on Abraham…
God promises him a son, in fact he promises him descendants that will outnumber the grains of sand or stars in the sky – and then Abraham and his wife Sarah get old. Way past menopause and AARP cards, they were 100 years old and his body was “as good as dead” as was Sarah’s womb. Still no baby.
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22
And long story made to short (you should read it sometime), they had a son! A baby born to the elderly! God made good on His promise!
And then God asked Abraham to kill his son.
CAN YOU IMAGINE!?
God makes you a promise, that a longing in your heart and a hope for your future will come true, and He makes you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. For decades you wait. And then He answers! And then He asks you to give that answer back to Him.
So in Genesis, Abraham walks his son up a mountain, Mount Mariah, where God has asked him to lay down his kid and sacrifice Him. And his kid, Isaac, is so confused why they’re walking to a place with all the wood and fire and the knife, buuuuuttttt “Dad where’s the lamb we’ll sacrifice?” and with the same confidence that Abraham held onto waiting for God to answer with Isaac’s life, he holds onto walking up to the place where God’s asked for this gift of faithfulness. He responds to his little boy “God Himself will provide the lamb.” With every step he’s echoing “Jehoveh-Jireh. Jehovah-Jireh. Jehoveh-Jireh. The Lord will provide. The Lord will provide. The Lord will provide.”
And wahddya know?
In the eleventh hour, God sees the heart of His beloved Abraham – willing to sacrifice the greatest gift he’d ever received, and God tells him to put the knife down. And out from the thicket came the bleating of a ram. At the very last moment, God provided.
And right there, Abraham named the place atop Mount Mariah “Jehoveh-Jireh.”
Though mentioned only once by name in the Bible, this name of God is woven throughout all of Scripture and all of this world – creation to today.
But here’s where we, oh the broken selfish humans that we are, have twisted that goodness. We can’t, or we choose not to, delineate between needs and wants. So, when God doesn’t provide for a want, we make Him the bad guy. We tell Him that He’s a liar. And many times we go out and get what we want on our own, usually sinning all the while to get it. And when He provides for needs. we don’t bat an eye – cause that’s His job isn’t it? He owes me that much.
Oh wicked heart, maybe not yours, but oh mine.
That’s not to say that He never responds to wants, He does! I have plenty of friends who have been gifted with the babies they wanted but didn’t need, the spouses they wanted but didn’t need, the Christmas bonuses they wanted but didn’t need… I myself am living and ‘doing ministry’ in a mansion I don’t pay the mortgage for with a chef making my lunch and dinner five days a week. Certainly didn’t “need” that provision, but there goes our God’s generosity and grace, lavishing where none of us deserve.
Just today what was supposed to be an hour-long Starbucks meeting of two pals quietly sludging through emails and meeting notes for their different jobs turned into a three hour conversation of prayer and tears and conviction and Scripture and altar-building and a couple of big bear hugs, my laptop never opened, and a need I hadn’t even thought to ask for was offered provision.
But even in the microcosm of a Starbucks patio I saw my distrust and sin in bold colors and turned up to max volume. As I took the first sips of iced chai I shared a couple of sweet moments God had orchestrated in the last couple of weeks that I literally could not have made happen on my own. Beautiful stories in little but powerful bite-sizes. I praised Him for it. I watched my buddy’s eyes tear as mine overflowed. And through the winding course of our dialogue I also heard myself say “When I look at the lives of HIs other kids, the ones He loves more than He loves me, I can’t believe that His promises are true. That’s why I struggle to read the Bible because it’s like reading a love-letter from an abusive husband. Oh how I WISH the words were true, but from my experience they aren’t, so it’s just too hard to read.” Full justification (though quite broken theology) of why the Bible and I aren’t hanging out as much as we once did.
And again, it’s because I’m overlooking the provision of the One so in the business of providing that He made sure to give us a story and a name to never forget, whatever our personal Mount Mariah might be.
If I was honest, I’m hurting and disbelieving because God says He’ll give us the desires of our heart – and He’s given them to my friends but not to me. So I’m crossing my arms out of self-protection and defiance. If I was honest, I’d pull out the pages-long list of needs that He has INDEED answered, with some wants sprinkled in, and I’d be less inclined to believe that He’s a liar and more likely to believe the words tattooed on my back – that if we hope against hope like Abraham did, He WILL provide! He has! And He will again! But I don’t wanna. I just want Him to give me what I’m hurting for and redeem where I’ve been disappointed and abandoned. I’ve given Him a description and demand of exactly how to provide for me, and I’ll accept nothing else, and nothing less.
Nowhere in Scripture am I guaranteed to get my way. Nowhere am I given an address to mail my Christmas list or Pinterest “Someday” pins. It’s never been His business to weigh the wants in our greedy hands more than the guttural cries of our sincerest needs.
I would encourage both of us to make a list of how He’s provided, we should crawl on the floor to a prostrate position of humility, praising His name for providing when we never deserved any of it. None. And we should repent for living the lie that it wasn’t enough.
And we should beg for His help to ‘hope against hope’ that the promises He’s made to our hearts that haven’t happened yet, well, that He’d fill our hearts with the same confidence of Abraham – the kind of faithfulness that waits a hundred years, and even after that – never loves what we’ve been given more than we love the One who gave it.