Lessons Learned Through Tough Times

When I got married I had the typical fairy tale view that life would get nothing but better for me as time went on.  I’m sure that is what most women feel on their wedding day.  I had lived the typical upper-middle class life in America and expected that it would continue, only getting better with each passing day.  The Lord had other plans for me though, and many other lessons for me to learn.

The first year of our marriage went well, like the first year in most marriages.  I became pregnant a few months after we were married and I had Lindsay 16 days after our first anniversary and 9 days before my 21st birthday.  Things went well most of the second year as well… then August came along.  After August 1985, Gene and I pretty much decided we would skip that month in the future.  At this time I was working full-time during the day, and Gene worked nights.  That was hard on us, but I felt that I just needed to be a “real person” and I wanted more “things”, so I got a job. (I won’t even go into all the sin issues behind this, trust me, there wasn’t a reason I was working that wasn’t based in sin)

Because I had a job, I then wanted a new car ( ever read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”?).  Through some unbelievable circumstances we were able to buy my car at a very good price.  We went to pick it up on my lunch hour from the bank.  I got off work about 30 minutes after Gene went to work. Before I picked up Lindsay from daycare I was going to go show my brand- spanking new car to my little brother.  As I was driving down a street I had driven down hundreds of times, I was blindsided. A teenager had run a stop sign while speeding and hit my car, turning it and, pushing it over a stop sign.  I had some cuts and scrapes and hurt my shoulder pretty good, but I could walk.  One of the people offered to let me come in and use their phone to call Gene. Gene was at work, talking to some of his friends about the great deal he had just gotten on my new car, when I called him crying, saying, “The car is totaled.”  At first he thought I was laughing, then he realized I was crying.  Due to the injuries I suffered I wasn’t able to pick up anything for two weeks, which meant I couldn’t work.

The insurance of the driver who hit me provided me with a rental car, which on my first day back at work promptly broke down at the daycare center when I was picking up Lindsay.  That night Gene went back to work after coming home for dinner.  My little brother and I were on the phone for a while talking, and afterward I called Gene to ask him to bring home some milk. Gene didn’t come to the phone, his boss did.  He told me Gene was at the hospital going into surgery and that they had been trying to reach me.  He had cut his Achilles tendon in half and they were trying to repair it.  My brother picked me up, and my parents met me at the hospital and took Lindsay home with them.  It was a very long and painful night for Gene.  They had to give him a spinal because he had just eaten, which caused him to have terrible headaches.  I called into work the next day and explained the situation to my supervisor, then on Wednesday, while I was at the hospital with Gene, my boss called me and said that if I wasn’t at work the next day I would lose my job.  Gene was getting out of the hospital the next day, and everyone else in our families had to work, so I told them to fire me, which they did.

Gene’s injury and recovery were painful and very difficult on a number of levels for us.  First I was now out of a job, and Gene’s pay was cut to about 75% of what it had been.  If I remember correctly, at that time he was making about $7.50 an hour. His recovery took several months and for a long time we didn’t know how much disability he would have in that leg.  The Lord was protecting us though.  The general surgeon they tried to get in was unavailable, so they called in an orthopedic surgeon.  He would have had a much greater disability if the general surgeon had tried to repair the tendon.  He also came quite close to cutting through the main artery in his leg, but the wire stopped just short of it.  Gene was off of work until January.  During this time we had been working closely with our mortgage company about our payments.  The deal we had worked out was that we would pay the principle only.  About this time there was a huge shake up in the Savings & Loan industry, as well as a impending oil crash on the horizon.  One day around Christmas, I received a phone call from the Savings & Loan that held our mortgage (which was now being restructured) and told that I had to pay all of the back interest, within a few days.  I had found another job, but Gene was still on disability pay and there was no way we had the money pay all of that interest.  We worked out a deal where we could sign our house back over to the bank.

Signing our house back over to the bank just after our second anniversary seemed like one of the most humiliating things I could go through.  I really didn’t think things would get worse, but they could.

Gene went back to work in January, and later in the month, Lindsay got a very bad case of strep throat.  I had no one to take care of her, so I had to stay home with her for a week and was let go because of it.  It was at that time that we decided I needed to be at home. These experiences helped me see that I would never choose a job over my family. The Lord also showed me how important my role of being at home was.  Through that second dose of humiliation, and it was humiliating to get fired again, He was showing me that my materialistic desires were sinful. He wasn’t done with me by a long shot, I still had many more lessons in the area of materialism, but I was beginning to see the light as far as my role as a wife and mother.

In April of 1986 Gene’s company began massive layoffs.  He made it through the first round, but not through the second.  Right after this my grandfather passed away. I felt like the walls were caving in around me at times, but I knew the Lord would see us through this valley… somehow.

In early May we decided to move to Little Rock where Gene’s sister lived in the hopes that the job market would be better.  We were there for 3 months, and he was unable to find a job. In September we moved to Dallas and stayed with my brother for a few weeks until we could get an apartment.  Gene looked and looked for a job, but couldn’t find one.

In early December we went to cash our unemployment check, and found that what we thought would be a $200 check, was only $75.  We were heartsick, and panicked.  We didn’t know what we would do. Gene’s unemployment had run out, and we had no money.  His mom and step dad brought a truck and helped us move back to Bossier City.  We moved in with my parents, and Gene soon found a job.

Those 16 months were incredibly tough on us in many ways. The Lord taught us many great lessons during those months, refining who we were.  He helped us to see what was truly important and what wasn’t, and He brought us closer together as a family.  We had to depend on the Lord, and each other for encouragement and strength. We found out that happiness, contentment and joy are not brought to us through houses, cars, and jobs.  They only come from depending on the Lord for everything.

To this day, 23 years later, I still remember what I had to spend to run the house each week.  It was $35 for the three of us.  It wasn’t a lot, but we never went hungry, and for that I am thankful.  So many people today take the verses in Matthew 6 about God providing for us out of context.  They look at God as a big Santa Claus assuming that because they are Christians they will have food, clothing and shelter.  These verses are telling not to be worried about them; not to let them consume our lives. The thought that God is up in heaven just wanting to bless our socks off in material ways is a thought process borne out of sinful desires.  Does the Lord love those of us here in America more than our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, the Sudan or China?  Do any of them go without what we consider to be “necessities”?

Times are economically tough right now, not just in America, but all over the world.  This is a great opportunity for introspection and self-examination.  What is the Lord trying to show us individually as we go through these tough times?  For our family, financially, things are going well.  But, I remember how quickly things can change.  Because of what I went through all those years ago, I am acutely aware that I’m not promised anything for tomorrow. Not Gene’s job, our house, our health,  or our lives.  We need to thankful for the many blessings that we have, and empathetic for those going through a tough time.  I remember how completely out of control things felt, and were.  I realized that even though they were out of my control, God was always in control.  This lesson has helped me to lean on Him when things seem chaotic.  I have to be reminded not to worry, and I still battle with trying to take control, but then I remember all that He has done.

I was reading in Joshua the other day about how the Lord had the Israelites  pile stones as a remembrance of what He had brought them through.  I think it’s important for us to take time to reflect and remember all the many things He has done for us, the most incredibly the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.

If I can be thankful, even during the darkest hour, it helps me greatly. I love the story of Betsie & Corrie ten Boom’s thankfulness for the fleas. Betsie kept encouraging Corrie to be thankful to God, even in the midst of the horrors of the concentration camp.  We can be thankful that while times may be tough, and uncertain, we are spared from many horrors that our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing today.

I’d love to hear what the Lord has taught you through a tough time.

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