Hard times ahead
When times are difficult and dark days descend, it is then we discover if we trust God or ourselves. Trusting God, no matter what we are enduring, leads us to contentment. When we trust in ourselves or our circumstances, we’re always on the edge of the precipice no matter how good our circumstances may be.
Philippians 4: 12, “I know what it is to be in need & I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
A family story
I’ve shared with y’all before the story of my Grandfather walking home on payday carrying a 50 lb sack of potatoes on his back while dragging a 50 lb sack of flour behind him. He’d been out of work for a while, as many men were during the Great Depression and it pained him to no end that he wasn’t able to take care of his family as he needed to.
Granddad was a good man, a hard worker, and he’d always been a good provider. He’d finally secured a job helping to build bridges. This was his first payday. With gladness he paid for his purchases and began the long walk home lugging 100 lbs with him.
The excitement that met him when he neared home cannot be overstated. My mother told me how she and the other children jumped, hollered, and danced with joy. They knew those humble ingredients in the gifted and loving hands of their mother represented good days ahead. They could eat and they could eat good. They’d long run out of Winter canned goods and pickings had been slim but these two simple ingredients their Papa had brought home meant bountiful meals in the days ahead. With careful planning, they could keep food on the table until the next payday rolled around.
Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Choices shrink and disappear when true poverty descends. Meat is a luxury to be hungered for but one rarely affordable by those who have less than nothing. You eat what you’ve got and often the quality of food you can afford is less than stellar. If you are eating, you are blessed.
So many days during those long barren years, I’d get up and make something like muffins or cinnamon toast for breakfast. Lunch would be along the lines of a PB&J. Supper would be something like gravy over biscuits. Starch upon starch upon starch. But, as I told my children, when you don’t have a lot, healthy eating means you are eating–period.
My folks knew that during the Depression. God blessed them and later us by putting food on our table. We were eating. We truly had nothing to complain about.
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without~ Great Depression Motto
During the Depression, womenfolks made clothing out of flour sacks. Flour companies figured out what they were doing and started printing their sacks with flowers and such so the ladies could feel pretty. Clothes were made and remade and then made into quilts.
My children and I didn’t have pretty flour sacks, we had thrift stores. But even that was hard–just like my ancestors before me, we learned to do without. As the years of deep poverty for us ground on, going from bad, to worse, to no way to see the light, we finally got to the point where we couldn’t afford to shop at thrift store even on clearance days. So we made do.
Even today, after being away from my husband for nearly a year, our closets still bear witness of our time of need. But they also bear evidence of God’s grace. We had many needs when we left him but we also had a deep trust in God. God has blessed us inch by inch, mile by mile. Learning contentment when you have to do without is actually a very good lesson to have to learn.
We learned a lot during those days of little–my grandparents and their children and, much later, me and my children–about survival. When things are hard, I mean hard as rock hard or worse, when there seems little you can do, there is still much that can be done. You have to be creative. You have to be willing to do what you can and not what you want to do. Those who can do this survive and even thrive no matter how dark the days.
If you trust God, you can always make it through.
Keep a good attitude
Truthfully, much about surviving in times of trial or deprivation depends on how you view things. Attitude is extremely important. I’ve seen it in others and I’ve lived it. Those who trusted God, kept on going. Those who didn’t, failed.
By God’s grace alone, in abject poverty, in need and want, in fear and confusion, in a house falling to pieces, with tattered furniture and all sorts of problems, my children and I had an abiding faith and trust in God. We got up with prayer and went to bed with prayer.
Matthew 6: 25-27, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
And we hoped. We hoped because we read God’s Word and believed it. Hoped because we prayed. We hoped because we trusted in God’s mercy, sovereignty, and in His goodness.
During those days of abuse, of little, of deep pain and deprivation, we studied Scriptures, homeschooled, read books together, cooked, did chores, played games, watched movies and TV shows, took walks, laughed, talked, encouraged each other, and at times cried together.
We endured because of our trust in God.
The Great Depression
My folks did that during the Great Depression, too. During those hard days, families gathered around the family Bible to learn and pray. They went to church. They learned to treasure the gentle rhythm of life that ebbed and flowed from day to night, from week to month, from season to season. Life was hard but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be good. They always trusted God to see them through, no matter how difficult the path.
A good life
Having a good life doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. It doesn’t mean fancy ways or things. Good means valuable but that doesn’t always equal expensive. Good means loving one another. Doing what needs to be done. It means trusting in the Lord, believing His Word, and giving yourself to prayer. It’s working hard. And, at the end of a tiresome day, it means gathering with those you love, relaxing and enjoying one another.
Their fun was simple, too–but good. My Grandfather, Uncle Bud to everyone who knew him, often held barn dances so the young folks could have some fun. He held one the Saturday night before he was killed in an accident just four days later. After his death, my precious Grandmother gathered her faith and her children and kept on going. It was not only her only option, it was–because of her faith in God–her only option.
Most nights found folks sitting on their porch with neighbors gathering first on this one, then on that, just sharing about the joys and trials of life. The old folks and the not so old talked and joked, while the children ran and played. The children would grow tired of gathering lightening bugs, or running and playing and they’d go settle around the porch, sit in the yard or on the stairs, to listen in as spooky stories, or funny stories, were told and retold.
The night turned into another day. They started over. Each new morning, folks got up and got started again. Together they did what they had to do. They encouraged one another and shared with each other. Those folks prayed with each other, worshiped together, struggled together, and survived. They laughed. Sometimes they cried together. They dreamed and they hoped.
A lot out of a little
Down in the busy days of Fall they’d have hog killing days and neighbors would join together to celebrate. That hog had to last through the Winter. When that ran low, they ate vegetables, or biscuits and gravy. Or cornbread and beans. When everyone had almost nothing, those who had a little shared what little they had. They could do so because of the trust they had in God.
Even when things were as bad as could be, Mamas and Grandmas still tried to come up with something special for their younguns and their menfolk. Mamas could make pies out of just about anything. Green tomatoes, pinto beans, vinegar, even water could all be mixed with a bit of this, some of that, a few spices, a little sugar, and a dab of butter and magic was made: she had a pie for her family out of what little ingredients she had on hand. I’ve made many of those pies myself and let me tell you, if you are ever that broke and you have to make do to make a pie, you’re gonna have some mighty fine eating for your loved ones.
But that’s not all Mamas and Grandmas would do. They’d take a small chicken and make a huge batch of chicken and dumplins and make a working man feel like a king at the end of a long day. Or cook up a bunch of sweet potatoes for young ones to munch on.
They might throw together a pan of biscuits for the family to munch on to keep the hungries away. The next day, they could poke a hole in those biscuits and fill them with sugar. Sugar biscuits, yep a real thing, were often a treat in my Mama’s lunch bucket and for a lot of other children, too.
Meals were simple but wants were simple, too. These ladies knew how to carefully steward all that they had. They didn’t think about what they were missing so they could be content with what they had.
Hard times descending
All that to say this: I’ve been there where you may be. Fearful of the future and wondering what it holds. I’ve been there. My husband quit his job. He was fired. We did without. I’ve been there.
My husband was a financial abuser (among all the other types of abuse). He lost our house, our van, and so many other things because he wouldn’t keep up the payments. He didn’t care. But the Lord did. I learned to trust God when I could trust no one else.
I’ve had to sell, lose, or leave behind many things that were near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned that things–no matter how precious they might be–are just that, things. Things may not be able to be replaced but they can live in your memories. And you can hold onto those.
Prayers for provision
I’ve dealt with poverty and with such need that it ached down into my soul and took root. I lost track of the hours I spent crying out to the Lord, asking Him to keep shelter over our heads and put food on the table.
I’ve stood in a kitchen pretty near devoid of food and begged God to fill out stomachs–especially to give me a way to feed my children. He always did. It might have been starchy–but He provided and we ate. When you trust in Him entirely and without any doubt whatsoever, He can do the same for you.
Faith not fear
These are scary times. The pandemic arrived and everything went haywire. The economy crashed. Folks were fired or laid off. And now, progressives are in the process of stealing our freedoms. Chaos reigns across our land. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned as to how all of this is going to play out for our country, for our churches, and even for my own family–and for yours. No matter how dark the days, we have to trust God.
To be honest, we don’t know what is going to happen but we do know that the Lord is absolutely sovereign, He is good and He is always trustworthy. If bad will come, it will be bad that He has allowed to come. For a Christian, the bad is always mitigated by God’s mercy.
The Lord’s mercies are new every morning. Even as the church enters into dark times, we are safe in His hands no matter how hard those times, no matter what we have to learn to do without, and no matter what we ourselves may endure. We must trust God. If we truly trust Him without wavering at all, we can be at peace.
Soli Deo Gloria!