About 10 years ago, I faced a financial crisis.
I had purchased a fixer-upper, my first major purchase as an adult. At the time, home renovation shows were the rage. Watching them, I became convinced that I could do a complete makeover of my studio for around $15000 in three days.
Of course hindsight is much clearer than foresight. I grossly underestimated the cost of renovation and the length of time it would take. Unfortunately I paid for everything in cash. And I ended up months behind on my bank loan.
I remember the panic I felt when I got a letter from a law office warning me of foreclosure. I felt ashamed. I felt stupid. I felt afraid of losing my studio.
But unlike a lot of families in Hawaii that face similar problems, I was not in any danger of living on the streets. I had my parents for help, if things became desperate. And turned to them I did! With check in hand, I solved my money problem.
I tell you that story to say that I’ve never experienced poverty. I admit my privileged status. Of course I’m not blind to the problems of poverty. Many here in Hawaii live below $2/day, the poverty threshold of developing countries.
But what I do know from experience—and this is true for the poor—is that God never abandons us. And in that sense, when you strive for God’s grace, you can never be truly poor.
During biblical times, widows were among those most susceptible to extreme poverty. In the average household, the wife took care of the home; husbands served as breadwinner. But when their husband died, widows had no means of support.
Have a look at our reading from 1 Kings. God tells his prophet Elijah to take up residence in the town of Zarephath. There, he is to expect a certain widow to greet him with food.
Elijah arrives, and sees the woman busy collecting wooden sticks. Presumably she was about to make the fire to cook the bread. Elijah commands her to bring a “morsel of bread in your hand.” But what she says next speaks volumes of her desperate situation.
She had no bread, just a handful of grain and some oil. The sticks she was collecting was not to cook with; that was her meal! Feel the hopelessness in her words:
“I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (1 Kings 17:12 )
As I hear those words, it’s difficult for me to relate to her despair. She felt as if she had no one to turn to. She did not even know our God, who she refers to Elijah as the “Lord, your God”.
I don’t understand how and I don’t why what happens next happens. But what I do know is that God used that moment of complete brokenness to bring light into this woman’s world. Through this encounter, the widows ends up having enough for her household to eat for many days.
I might not be able to relate to the powerlessness she felt in her poverty. But what you and I can take from this story of extreme poverty is this. In your brokenness, God will bring you the blessing you need.