Lord, do You hear me? Please take this away! I thought you would never give me more than I could handle.
These thoughts sometimes still find their way into my mind and prayers in the tough seasons and hard situations that have been allowed in my life. We’ve all wondered why God would allow those things to happen right? I remember when I had just been let go of a ministry job; I was hurt, I was frustrated, I was scared, and having a wife and 3 children at home, I was unsure of where the finances were going to come from to provide for my family. I prayed every day and every night, and asked the Lord for a job, yet for months there was nothing.
I was frustrated and kept asking God to let this season pass and to take it away. After some time, I received a call from a friend of a friend who owned several restaurants in San Diego. He had heard of my situation, called me, and offered me a job at one of his restaurants. I immediately responded with an excited “yes”, though I didn’t know what I’d be doing; frankly I didn’t care—I needed a job desperately and jumped at the opportunity.
The owner went on to tell me that I would be helping prep food in the back kitchen to start with, and we could see where it went from there. He also told me I could work there as long as I needed to in this difficult season. I was so grateful and couldn’t wait to tell my wife and called her right away; she was excited too.
I started the very next day and that morning set off on a new adventure with God. I found myself praising God the whole way to work; I was so thankful my hard season had ended. When I pulled up to the address I had been given, my mouth dropped. The joy I had experienced over the last twenty-four hours, suddenly turned into confusion, culminating in what would become a bad attitude.
This couldn’t be right, I thought to myself. This is a taco shop, not a restaurant. Was I really in the parking lot of a local taco shop chain? I called the owner, because surely I was at the wrong address. A brief conversation ensued and indeed, I discovered it was the right address; I sat in my car for about fifteen minutes contemplating if I should even go inside. I took a deep breath, prayed, and went in.
The manager I would soon report to looked at least fifteen years younger than me. She told me I would not be prepping food in the kitchen, like the owner had said, but taking orders at the register, and refilling the salsa bar. This can’t be happening, I thought to myself.
But this was really happening; I was a husband, father of 3, who had transitioned from a pastoral position with a livable salary, to now working at a taco shop for minimum wage, with the important responsibility of refilling the salsa bar.
But it gets better. That same day, my first day of work, an old friend came in to the shop. “Danny! This is so cool…I didn’t know you owned a taco shop!” As much as I wanted to say I did, I knew I’d have to tell him the truth. I broke the news, which led to an awkward silence permeating the air. All I could do next was ask him what he wanted to order.
Honestly, it was a humiliating experience and I felt angry with God. I couldn’t understand why He would do this to me. I had devoted my life to the work of the ministry. I had asked for God’s best for my family. I wanted to be a provider and protector for my wife and children. This seemed a bit ridiculous.
Reluctantly, I kept showing up every day because no other jobs were opening up. A month passed, then 2, then 3. I kept applying at other jobs, but it wasn’t God’s time. Many nights I would come home and apologize to my wife; I felt like a failure. My prayers became desperate; I found myself in tears crying out to God to please take me out of this season.
But then something happened. God used a good friend of mine to remind me that God was doing something in my life and He was using the taco shop to do it. He challenged me to stop asking God to let this season to pass, but rather to ask God to show me what He wanted to teach me in this time.
When he prayed for me, I began to cry; I knew that I had been selfish, and that I had been resisting what God wanted to do; I had been proud. I humbled myself in the sight of the Lord that night, turned away from my selfish mindset, and started asking God to help me be content in Him, trusting in His will for my family.
I started praying like never before. I began praying with my wife and children like never before and there were many nights to follow where I would fight on my knees in intercession.
During this time, God showed me that indeed He had blessed me with this job and I was reminded that I needed to be grateful for what had been provided to me. I accepted that God was doing a necessary work in me and that in fact, He had been answering my prayers, though not the way I preferred or how I thought He would. I realized that if God couldn't entrust me with salsa, why would He entrust me with souls?
I took my eyes off myself, and began to ask for God’s heart for others, especially my colleagues at work. I began praying for them and seeking out ways that I could be an encouragement to them. God restored my joy, my peace, and I knew that if this is all that God had for me, I could live content with it.
God was doing profound things in my family at this time too. They experienced the faithfulness of God through His provision! Even though I was making minimum wage, God graciously and miraculously met all of our needs. We never lacked a meal, clothing for our bodies, or a roof over our heads. And we never missed a bill payment. There is no way this could be possible on paper—but where there is no way, God makes a way. He is so faithful.
Shortly after this season, my family began to attend Rock Church. I started volunteering, and regaining a passion and desire to serve and love people. 2 years later, I was offered a part-time job there, helping in the worship community, and now am a full-time pastor.
In hindsight, I can see now that this difficult season was ordained by God, that I might be better prepared for all He had for me. It formed Christ in me. It humbled me in necessary ways and shook my cup, so I could find out what was on the inside.
Like Psalm 66:10 explains, “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” God tested me over a prolonged and uncomfortable period of time and I am a better man for it. I thank God for it.
There were promises I had read in Scripture too, that mean so much more to me now. In Deuteronomy 31.6, it describes God being with us and promising to “never leave us or forsake us.” And in Psalm 46.1, it says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need…a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
Additionally, God promises to “…lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths…” He will turn “the darkness into light” before us and “make the rough places smooth” too. He won’t abandon us or leave us without guidance, as Isaiah 42:16 promises! And indeed, Paul was certain that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Yes, the Lord is our helper and we have nothing to fear. (Hebrews 13:5-6) He is all-powerful, all-sufficient, and He is in full control, controlling all things in His immeasurable wisdom.
No matter where you’re at on the journey, I want to encourage you to let your Lord, your God, guide you on the unfamiliar path, and learn to be grateful for all of the ways He chooses to answer your prayers. He’s doing a good work in you and He will bring it to completion.