A Letter From God

Yesterday was one of the worst days I can remember.  Seemingly out of the blue, anxiety ripped through my chest like a steel vice.  It felt like an elephant was sitting on me.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t concentrate, and I couldn’t think.  Somehow I made it through staff meeting, then went home and shut myself off from the world.

After a good night’s sleep, an hour of hard aerobic exercise, and some quiet reflection, I think I understand what triggered yesterday’s meltdown.  It was the new church budget.

I am the lead pastor of a medium sized non-denominational church, and along with preaching, teaching, leading, and all the rest of the pastor stuff, I oversee a yearly budget that approaches a million dollars.  But I’ve been doing this for years.  What was it about this particular budget that upset me?

To put it simply, the bottom line seemed out of reach.  Overhead costs have risen considerably, and compared to the amount that our congregation typically gives, it looked yesterday like there was no way we will be able to meet our financial needs.  So I imploded internally.

I’ve come to understand that occurrences like this aren’t random.  If I give God a chance to weigh in, I’ve learned that instead of randomness, these challenges are God’s way of teaching me something important.

So this morning, I sat down with God and asked Him to explain what was happening.  I opened up my journal with the intention of jotting a few thoughts down, but I ended up dictating a letter- a letter to me from God.  Here’s what He wrote:

Dear George,

I want to develop and strengthen your leadership style.  You are a careful, conservative leader who likes to operate in an system where everything makes sense.  For you, numbers need to add up.  That’s good in many ways, but there is little room for faith or supernatural occurrences in that kind of environment.

This year’s church budget doesn’t add up, and that’s what sent you over the edge yesterday.  You felt powerless and out of control because you couldn’t reconcile the bottom line.

I want you to know that I made it that way on purpose. I engineered the entire process and arranged the budget so that the needs appear greater than the resources.  And I did this to create a circumstance that was beyond your control.  I want you to learn to lead not just by your instinct, but with faith. 

For the next year, I will teach you how to lead without the ability to control.  And I want you to watch and learn as I supply what you don’t have.  This will be a lesson of faith and trust.  You’re going to have to learn to trust me.  You’re going to have to be OK not being able to explain where everything you need will come from.  You’re going to have to learn how to ask for help and depend on Me to hear you and answer you.  I must teach you that it is Me and not you that is really in charge.

I am your Father, and I love you.  You matter to me, and the church matters to me.  I will not let you down.  I am right here beside you, and I will always be.

God

I must honestly tell you that I’m not thrilled to share this letter with you.  As a pastor, it’s not easy to admit to a lack of faith and an overdeveloped dependence on myself.  But I can’t help but think that there are others who share my shortcomings.  Maybe you are walking a similar path in your own life.  It might not be a church budget that is sending you over the cliff, but in some part of your life, the needs outnumber the assets, and you just can’t see how things add up.

Feel free to borrow my letter.  Change my name to yours, and join me on a journey of allowing God to teach you how to depend on Him.  Please let me know if you decide to walk this road with me.  I’d love your company.

24 thoughts on “A Letter From God

  1. I will!! We are getting closer to living on a very fixed income and find myself constantly trying to “figure it all out” and still make it…so yes, I will take that walk with you!

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  2. Thank you George for your transparency. I have just started another intentional interim and stepped into a church that is in conflict and crisis. My situation is different than yours but I sense God telling me the same thing. It is what I am also trying to communicate to the congregation. Last Sunday was my first sermon and I preached from Psalm 46 and focused on the fact that God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble (v.1) but that we must be still and let God be God (v.10).
    We seldom see each other and live many miles apart but you are still on my list of valued friends, my friend. Stay strong for the Lord but, more importantly, stay close to Him!
    Doug Dennis

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    1. Wow you don’t even know how timely this is on multiple fronts in my life right now. Thank you! Prayers and blessings to you.

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  3. Hello Pastor, thank you for sharing your personal struggles, you can’t imagine how important it is for folks to see spiritual leaders as real people who can relate. After a series of traumatic events, I continue to battle anxiety, although no longer have panic attacks. From that time though, God led me to begin Crushed By God (www.crushedbygod.com) and The Burning Lamp. While I still cry out for total freefom, I am trusting in God’s sovereignty. Thanks for the encouraging post and the important ‘letter!’! ✉

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  4. Well said, George! We are facing a very similar situation in our personal finances at this very moment. While praying with Frank, I said that for some reason I was calm. Which is completely uncharacteristic of myself, up until now. I have been praying peace over all areas of my life. I can’t wait to see how God makes your budget work itself out…and ours as well! We love you!

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  5. I’ve felt that steel clamp and pray I always just….breathe…and…believe. I know God has a plan, but sometimes it’s so hard just to breathe. Thank you George, you encourage me.

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  6. Pastor, what an encouraging letter. Thank you. I have shared your message with several people already today. Thank you. God bless you. Julie

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  7. Wow. God truly works in mysterious ways. The timing of your letter is the reminder I need at this time in my life, that God is bigger than all our problems. HE is in control! And Will supply all our needs. Thank you for being so open and sharing this. I’ll be praying for you.

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  8. Hey Pastor George,

    Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, I do not have a crane big enough to pull that elephant off of your chest, but I am with you with thoughts and prayers for I struggle with similar issues when 1+1=3…!! I never can do much about it until I do what you have shared. It works all the time…..God always comes in and shares with me that HE has never left me, nor will HE ever…..HE just tells me to always remember who really is in charge, and it is not me….

    I must admit (cause you know me pretty well) that I want to help HIM take care of many situations that need adjusting, correcting, and whatever I can do to make things “balance” as they should. When I dare to look back over the past several years I can always see that God’s Wisdom has prevailed and whatever needed to be adjusted or changed happened not in my timing, but HIS…How Wonderful..!!

    Just know that I am with you in this area in more ways than one..!! Thanks for our friendship and desire to share in the “Who’s in Control” area….and it’s not us. HE does give us all we need including HIS Wisdom to accomplish HIS tasks that HE has put upon us.

    Love YOU my Brother,

    Paul G.

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  9. Wow- this is amazing. “And I want you to watch and learn as I supply what you don’t have.” That line is really powerful. Margaret was telling me about this post this morning and I’m so glad she did! Part of what I love about coming to CCC is the “real-ness” I see in you as the pastor. I love that you allow God to challenge His people by speaking the truth, sharing your own struggles, and telling it like it is- from the heart. No one can lead others to a place they are not going themselves- thank you for being someone who “goes there” in his own life. God bless!

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  10. We are “snowbirds” and are thankful CCC is our winter home. Ironically, for different reasons and circumstances than your outlined, our pastor in Ohio was hit with anxieties to the point he had to take some time off. The attached link describes the journey he has been on and currently still is. Thought I’d share it with you.

    I’m going to pass your letter along to Steve (the pastor), but it also pertains to me.

    Thanks for sharing.

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