God’s Love Letters

photograph of abandoned gas station

Abandoned Gas Station

Early one Saturday morning, in July of 2010, Sherri and I were driving west on Interstate 30, somewhere between Texarkana and Sulphur Springs.  We were both looking forward to a stress-free weekend visiting family near Dallas.

As Sherri dozed in the passenger seat, I sipped a vanilla latte’ and let my mind wander.  To say there was a lot on my mind would be an understatement.

The corporation by whom I had been employed for the last eighteen years had recently announced they were closing my division, leaving several hundred employees without jobs.  I was soon to join the ranks of the unemployed and, in the middle of a recession, job opportunities for structural engineers were non-existent in the southwest corner of Arkansas.

My mind was full of questions, constantly searching for answers.  “Father,” I prayed, “please show me what I’m supposed to do.  I need to support my family.  I have possibilities of work in other regions of the country, but don’t want to uproot my family and disrupt child custody agreements.”

“Should I look for work in some other field, near our home?  Should I launch my own consulting firm, and hope to find enough paying clients to make a living?  Should we plan to move despite the disruption to our children?”

“Lord God, I know you have a plan and I trust you to care for my family, but I really need to know what to do.  Please God, I need to act soon and I have no idea what direction I should be taking.  Please, Lord show me what to do.”

Suddenly, my mind was yanked back to the immediate present as the Suburban kicked out of cruise control and slowed.  Startled, I depressed the accelerator as my eyes rapidly scanned the instrument panel, pausing on the fuel gauge.  Empty!  Empty?

My mind reeled as the gauge reading sunk in.  How could it be empty?  I filled the tank on the way home, last night.  It was completely full.  Fuel leak?  Electrical problem?

Sherri, startled from her nap, queried, “What’s wrong?  Why did you slow down?”  “We’ve got a problem,” I responded distractedly.

Still cycling through potential scenarios, I attempted to answer Sherri’s flury of questions.

It seemed like several slow motion minutes, but was really brief seconds before I locked in on the obvious answer.  I filled the tank on the Toyota, assuming we would be driving it, but we decided to take the Suburban, instead.  I drove off without even checking, and without noticing the fuel gauge right in front of my face!

What a dunce!  I felt like such a fool!  So much for a stress-free weekend!  Thanks to my distractedness and basic stupidity, this was quickly shaping up to be a miserable time.

“Lord, please help!” I prayed, resignedly, as I guided the powerless vehicle off the interstate and onto the adjacent exit ramp.

“What are you doing?” asked Sherri.  “We’re out of gas,” I replied, coasting toward the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp.

It was one of those quiet little exits surrounded by farmland and occupied by nothing but an apparently long-deserted gas station.  There was zero traffic to worry about as I slowed to make a right-hand turn.

“Stop!  Pull over here!” directed Sherri.  “I’m coasting to that gas station,” I replied.

“No, the gas station is closed.  Pull over here, where we’re near the interstate.”

“I’m coasting to the gas station.”

“The gas station isn’t open!  It’s deserted!”

“I know it’s deserted, but I’m coasting to the gas station.”

Sherri sat in shocked silence as we coasted to a halt at the gas pumps, opposite a car being filled with gas.  I hopped out, filled the tank, paid the cashier, and cranked the engine.

We were back on the highway!

The whole event had taken less than ten minutes.  Even as I pulled back onto Interstate 30, the whole experience felt almost surreal.

“Why didn’t you fill up in Texarkana?” Sherri asked.  “We weren’t out of gas in Texarkana,” I joked in dazed relief.

Minutes later, as adrenaline dissipated and Sherri drifted off to sleep again, I silently breathed a prayer of thanks…and contemplated what had just occurred.  I started to smile…then to chuckle…and to let go of the worries and stress over the impending job changes.  I realized God had just answered my prayers and questions in the most graphic way imaginable.

I love you…enough to completely care for you in such a minor situation as an empty gas tank.

Trust Me!  I have everything under control.  Your resources won’t run out before you make it to where I want you to go.

Stop worrying about making a mistake.  I know about your mistakes before you even make them, and have already planned for your provision…even stupid mistakes like not noticing a fuel gauge right in front of your face.

Stop worrying about timing of events.  I am the master planner.  The vehicle stops running precisely when it reaches an exit with an abandoned gas station which I caused to be reopened in anticipation of your need.

Most of all, stop wondering whether you know my voice.  You just followed my directions in the midst of a confused and distracting situation, in defiance of all logic, and in opposition to your wife’s sound input.  You know my voice, and you know how to follow my direction.

I am Jehovah Jireh, the Lord God who provides (Genesis 22:14).

Trust me!  Trust my voice!  I love you, and I won’t let you down.

It wasn’t the answer I was looking for…God’s answers seldom take the form I’m looking for.  He didn’t give me an immediate flash of insight to know exactly what to do in the job situation I was concerned about.

However, in the midst of the difficult job situation, He sent me a very clear love letter assuring me both of His love and His provision for me.

And in the months that followed, He led me step-by-step to another job with another company, in the same field I had been working in, without the need to relocate my family.

What love letters has God sent to you?

 [This post linked to God-Bumps , Beholding Glory , Graceful , Wellspring , Seedlings ]

36 thoughts on “God’s Love Letters

  1. I love how God meets our needs just in time!. I am blessed that you were able to stay where your family was established with friends and school!
    You have an incredible gift for writing. Thank you for telling this story.. God bless.

  2. Joe,
    I can’t tell you how wonderful your blog post was. Our son got a love letter recently! His Non-Hodgekin’s Lymphoma returned for the 4th time in 10 years. He is 37 now. Two years ago when it was back, MDA Hospital in Houston talked about a bone marrow transplant that MIGHT cure him. God told him not yet. Well, this time that it returned, MDA said, “It’s good you waited for the transplant. It is perfected so much now that you are almost assured of a CURE!” Talk about timing! God’s timing is always right on!! I am so happy that you got the great new job. God has promised never to forsake us or leave us, and He proves himself every time!
    In Christ,
    Judy

    • That is awesome news, Judy! What a blessing for your son and for all of your family!

      God is always faithful and His timing is always perfect!

      Thank you, for sharing.

  3. Great story! After listening to a TED talk today, one of the new things I’m struggling is: why does God provide for some, and not others? Why doesn’t he stop tsunamis for instance? I’ll see if I can find the link to the video. It was by Tony Honey from the UK, if I remember right. Powerful stuff and too much to digest on a first listen. Must listen to it again.

    • Great question, Leanne! Looking back over my blog posts, I’ve written a lot more posts about the struggle of finding God in the midst of difficult circumstances than of God’s obviously miraculous provision. Even in this post, notice that it is a mixture of both.

      In general, God’s plans for my life seem to usually be quite different from my own expectations. Accordingly, His provision is based on His plans and priorities, not mine. He is always faithful. However, He often provides strength through a trial rather than the resolution of the trial.

      I see the same general pattern in how God interacted with people in the biblical record.

      Thank you, for the thought-provoking comment!

    • It truly is amazing how involved He wants to be in every detail of our lives, isn’t it?

      As I attempted to explain to an agnostic a few weeks ago, there are many conclusions one could draw about God based on different experiential perspectives. However, one could never conclude from the biblical record that God chooses to be distant or impersonal toward mankind.

      Thank you, Sylvia! Love hearing your perspective, both here and on your blog!

  4. Enjoyed reading your story and rejoicing with you. God always knows what we need — why in the world do I worry? I’ll remember your story the next time I do!

    • Remembering is key, isn’t it Pamela? Over and over God instructed the Israelites to remember. Remembering God’s faithfulness in past circumstances allows us to trust Him in whatever our current circumstances may be.

      Thank you, for the insight.

  5. God Bless you, sweet Joey! It is no surprise to me to see how our Lord is using you! ……hearing about your walk, blesses me so much! Thanks for sharing! P.S. have you picked any tomatos lately??? You have always blessed my life!

    • Hey, Mary Jo! So good to hear from you! I have so many wonderful memories of visiting your house, studying God’s word, picking vegetables and fruit, laughing and joking.

      Sherri and I do keep a very small garden each summer. The corn seems to consistently do well. The tomatoes seem to be hit or miss; one year they do really well and another year they don’t. Still nothing like home-grown tomatoes, though!

    • Same here, Laura, on the ability to make mistakes!

      Isn’t our God just amazing in both His love for us and His level of interest in our needs and concerns?

  6. I’ll take your post as a love letter from God to me. This is what I need to hear. He has things under control even though I can’t see through the mess of the moment.

    Thank you, Joe.

    • How cool is that? God blessing me was a blessing to you!

      Thank you, Lisa, for sharing that!

      Yes, our Faithful Friend does have everything under control, even (maybe especially) when it appears out of control from our perspective.

  7. This was such an encouragement to me! My husband has been out of work and for many complicated reasons doesn’t qualify for unemployment. I have been a stay-at-home homeschool mom for years, and have no qualifications…I have felt like I need to do something. But my spirit says, “Stay still.” And this story reminded me that I can trust that small still voice. Thank you!

    • It’s not easy to trust God’s timing in a situation where wordly logic calls for immediate action, is it?

      I often find myself quoting Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

      Thanks for sharing, KD!

    • Yes, it was truly a miraculous experience! One of the few times in my life where I have seen God do something so over-the-top as to leave absolutely no plausible doubt that it was a supernatural miracle.

      That number of coincidences of that scale have such an extremely low mathematic probability of occurrence as to be able to safely state it simply won’t happen…and yet it did.

      And for something so minor as an empty gas tank!

      A love letter, with His own signature! I don’t know how else to describe it…

      I’m glad it was an encouragement to you, as well, and pray that God will continue to anoint you with the oil of joy, to replace your mourning.

      Thank you, Debra!

    • Yes, indeed! He even orchestrates in advance to provide for needs which we are not yet aware of.

      Blessings to you this morning, Michelle!

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