For the last 8 days, my family and I have been consecrating ourselves unto the Lord. It’s hard to fully explain how God leads me to do the things that he leads me to do. But suffice it to say, what that meant for me and my family was that we would have no TV, movies, news, social media, etc. for 8 days, starting the morning of January 8th. The only things we watched were sermons and Bible movies on YouTube. The only internet I used was to check one particular email account for the purpose of necessary communications. I don’t generally receive any news, market, or investment related emails on that account. For the few emails that come through with possible news in the subject lines, I was able to successfully ignore them the few times I had to use the account. So, I really have not seen nor heard any news until this morning.
However, I knew that Arch Coal was facing a deadline on January 15th. Trust me when I say, I would not have picked the timing for my family and I to have done this. It was something God led me to do. Obviously, I continued to pray and trust the Lord about my situation while doing this. I will not pretend like my prayers lately have been robust and plentiful. Rather, I have felt over the last several weeks like I am trying my best to limp to the finish line. But I was still doing my best to fight through all the doubts and fears and exhaustion, and continue to trust him, even when it felt very difficult to do that.
Even though I was trusting him, I really didn’t know what I would find this morning when I finally caught up on the news. Would I find deliverance, or would I find more pain, struggle, and humiliation? Well, it’s obvious to anyone who has kept up with the news that I found the latter:
Arch Coal declared bankruptcy this past Monday morning. I realize that was supposedly “obvious” to everyone. A high probability of bankruptcy has been reflected in the stock price from the moment I first mentioned Arch Coal back in July of 2014. They were bleeding cash and coal prices have continued to fall drastically with no hope in sight, pretty much the entire time I held it (and kept buying more). The reason it was not “obvious” to me is that I am not walking by sight, but rather by faith. I believed strongly that God has repeatedly led me toward buying coal stocks over the last 18 months or so. I believed that before Alpha Natural Resources declared bankruptcy. I believed it after they declared bankruptcy. I believed it before Arch Coal declared bankruptcy. I still believe it.
I also believed strongly that God would have delivered me by now. But he hasn’t. At times, it has been extremely painful to go through this. I write about my pain today for several reasons. The primary reason is to bring glory to Jesus Christ. Everything else falls under that banner. Everything else falls subordinate to that primary purpose. Under that purpose, one of the reasons I don’t mind sharing my pain is that I hope it will help someone else one day who is going through a trial and testing that has similarities to mine.
What I can tell you about my trial is that I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life than I have been about the way God has led me on coal and offshore oil and gas stocks. I can’t even begin to describe all the prompting, leading, speaking, confirmation, encouragement, and assurance God has given me from start to finish (or maybe I should say from start till today). He has even given me peace that surpasses all understanding, not once, but twice in regard to the decision to buy coal stocks. But here I sit, utterly destroyed and humiliated. At least that is how it looks based on what I can see. But it’s not what I can see that actually matters:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1, ESV
“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7, ESV
I know that it’s not what I can see that matters. I know this to be true because I know the Bible to be true. But that doesn’t mean what I am going through is easy. It’s hard. It’s extremely hard. It’s not even really that emotionally distressing for me anymore. The destruction has already largely come. There’s not as much to worry about as there was when the portfolio was at $100,000+.
Now, there is really more feelings of disillusionment, depression, and confusion. Questions arise such as, “Do I really know God?” “Is my relationship with him what I think it is?” “Am I way off base in understanding who God is and how he speaks to his children?” “Does he not actually work in my life the way that I thought I understood him to be working?” I have felt very confused this morning. Believers normally talk publicly about their faith, but I’m not sure we talk as openly about the testing of our faith. That is, I'm not sure we're as open about the many questions, doubts, and fears that arise. I think we feel like we’re not bringing glory to God when we talk about those things. But the truth is that he is glorified through our weakness.
As always, I am left with various options or choices I could make. But the only choice that ultimately matters is this one: Do I choose to trust the Lord? Normally, I can find what I call “the pathway of faith”. By that, I’m referring to finding one or more mental pathways that will allow me to keep believing God. The best scriptural example I can think of is this one:
“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” – Hebrews 11:9, NIV
In my experience, there are many, many pathways that can lead me to doubt God. But it’s normally a lot harder to find the pathway that says, “Nope, I reject all those doubts and fears and lies. Somehow God is still true. His word is still true. He is who he says he is. He will do what he says he will do.” But normally, I can find one or two of those mental pathways. Sometimes they seem very far-fetched, but it's important that they exist. Because through those mental pathways, I can find a way to continue believing God for whatever it is that I’ve been trusting him to supply. I can normally find a way to continue believing that all of his promises are true, even when it is difficult.
This morning, I couldn’t find that mental pathway. I couldn’t find any way to reconcile what I believe God has told me with what I am seeing happen. So, the choice I am left with is this one: Will I continue to trust him anyway? Will I continue to trust him when there is no way to make any sense of what is happening? I’m not talking about not being able to make sense of what is happening through the use of human wisdom. That train left the station a long time ago. I’m talking about not being able to make sense of what is happening even through eyes of faith. Will I still trust in the Lord even then? Will I still trust in who he is, even if it turns out that I was totally wrong about everything else?
The answer is a resounding “YES!!!!”
Jesus Christ lives in my heart and I can no more deny who he is than I can deny my own existence! He proved his great love for me when he took my sin upon himself so that I could live! Once the Spirit of God reveals that truth to you… once he puts that truth in your heart, it cannot be denied!
So, I must choose to trust in him and serve him with my whole heart, no matter what “results” I seem to get in this life. He deserves everything I can give to him, and so much more!
Last, I wanted to point out that it would be a terrible shame for me, or for anyone going through a trial and testing, to rebel by the Red Sea.
“Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” – Psalm 106:7, ESV
So, there they stood on the verge of seeing God’s greatest miracle yet, and what do they do? They rebel against him! They basically slander him with accusations and question his character. I am not trying to pretend like I understand the struggle the Hebrews were facing. They were in a much more difficult situation than I am in. They had horrible death on one side and horrible death on the other side and they didn’t see any way out of it. But the people and events recorded in the Bible serve as examples for us, sometimes of what we should do, sometimes of what we shouldn’t do. In this instance, we can see clearly with hindsight that they were wrong to rebel against God and question him by the Red Sea. He knew the whole time how he was going to deliver them. They just couldn’t see how, so they got scared and began to question God. The lesson for me is that I don’t want my heart to rebel against God when he puts me in difficult, seemingly impossible circumstances. Difficult and (humanly) impossible circumstances are normally where believers find themselves when God is about to be glorified!
Yes, God delivered them anyway for his own name’s sake. But there are two problems with trying to look on the bright side and apply their result to our own situations. First, we have no assurance of deliverance or blessing if we give up. But there are promises for those who don’t.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9, NIV
The second problem is that I have been given tools, power, and revelation that were not available to those believers. I have the full revelation of God in his son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I have been reconciled completely to the Father through the work of the Son, and I have his Spirit living inside of me. I have no excuse whatsoever for giving up or rebelling against him! The third problem is that it should be our greatest goal in life to be a good and faithful servant to the Lord Jesus Christ!
If I give up now, he may still deliver me for his own name’s sake. But wouldn’t I rather be faithful to the one who has been so extremely good and faithful to me? Yes and Amen!
In Christ's Name,