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?