by Keith Giles
On Thursday of last week our family got quite a disturbing letter. It was from the IRS. As you may know, they are not prone to mailing out greeting cards or words of encouragement.
We had only just scraped in at the tax filing deadline due to some mix-ups with one of my previous employers. That was stressful enough, but now we had another test to face.
When my wife opened the letter she admitted to me that she was quite angry. Not so much at the IRS, but honestly, at God. We've been through a good solid ten months of trial and testing already. It seems we've gotten very good at reminding God of our troubles and keeping mental lists of all of our struggles handy in case He's forgotten.
Now we had to face yet another challenge to our faith, and our sanity. According to our friends at the IRS we had mis-filed our taxes and they were not allowing us to claim the earned income credit. This meant we owed them about $2,000, which of course, we did not have.
I've been doing contract work and temporary assignments with various agencies and organizations these last ten months to make ends meet. God has been faithful to us through it all, although we are quick to forget this whenever the next tragedy strikes.
Truthfully, at times like this we are prone to believe that God has forgotten us. Sometimes we even wonder if He is watching over us at all. We begin to hang our heads and we complain and grumble to God. We ask Him how He could allow this to happen to us. "Haven't we suffered enough, God?"
So, of course we shared our pain with our House Church family at The Mission and asked for prayer. What we needed was a miracle, really. To cover the $2,000 we'd have to put it on our credit card and do our best to pay down the debt over the next year or so.
So, over the weekend, my wife and I went back over our taxes again to see what we had done wrong. We thought we found the error and discovered a secondary form we had neglected to file the first time which, if our friends at the IRS would allow, might get us out of the jam.
On Monday my wife called and spoke with an IRS representative on the phone. They went over the taxes line by line together. Then they discovered that the IRS had actually made a mistake. Our debt was erased and they now owed us $200.
That was when my wife mentioned that secondary form we had neglected to file in the beginning. The woman from the IRS said that we could apply that to our taxes now since they had re-opened our file for this investigation. She said she would go back through our taxes and call us back in a few hours to let us know the results.
While our family was eating dinner on Monday evening our phone rang. It was our friend at the IRS. She informed us that we should be expecting a check from the IRS in the amount of $1,989.00 in about three weeks.
When we heard the news our family started worshipping God together. I grabbed my guitar and started playing, "Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging..." and our family sang together around the dinner table. We wiped away tears. We laughed and we cried. We thanked God for His amazing faithfulness.
As I looked at my wife, in our moment of joy, she said, "So this is why God allowed our taxes to be flagged. So that He could give us an extra $2,000!"
We both repented of our grumbling to God just days before. We could see now, from the other side of this ordeal, that God really WAS at work on our behalf the entire time. In fact, if God hadn't allowed the IRS to question our taxes, we would never have discovered the treasure He was intending to give us from the beginning.
I wish I could say this is the first time that God has turned a dark cloud into a shower of blessing. It's not. I wish I could say that, without a doubt, the next time this happens I will remember the goodness of God. My track record isn't that great.
That's why I am so comforted to know that God remembers that we are dust. He is faithful to us, even if we are faithless. He is good to us, even when we complain.
I used to read the Exodus account and wag my head at those faithless Israelites who continued to doubt God and complain and grumble at Him, even though only a few pages earlier God had worked mighty miracles on their behalf. "How could they doubt?" I'd wonder.
As I've grown older I've begun to realize that I am just like those stubborn, dull Children of Abraham who crossed the desert so full of doubt and so quick to complain. God knows it too. I often say, "God isn't looking for a few good men. He already knows there aren't any."
I am reminded of what God commanded Joshua to do when the Children of Israel had crossed over the Jordan as God held back the waters and allowed them to walk on dry ground to the other side. After everyone had crossed over, God commanded them to have one man from each of the twelve tribes go back into the bed of the Jordan river and hoist a large rock on their shoulder to carry back on to the Jericho side so that they could build an altar that would stand as a remembrance of what God had done for them that day.
At times like this, when God moves in an amazing way, I think it's important for us to have a "Stone of Remembrance" too. God knows us. He knows we are quick to forget His goodness, especially when the next challenge rises up.
Our children need to remember these times too. We need to allow the testimony of God's goodness and faithfulness to have more weight, more texture, than our intangible fears and foolish doubts.
Today I have resolved in my heart to remember the goodness of God. I want to do whatever it takes to hold fast to these memories of God's amazing grace to me. I want my lips to be quick to praise Him, to believe the best, no matter what my eyes may see in front of me.
Maybe I need to walk out into my backyard and search for a large stone? Something heavy to fit in my hand like a tangible chunk of faith, a solid testimony of hope for the seasons of doubt that are sure to come again one day.
We cannot forget. We must always remember. God is good. His love endures forever.
I'm going to find a rock now.
NON-CON '08: Mark your calendars for March of 2008 and keep checking over at WWW.NON-CON.COM for new updates on registration, location, and finalized dates for this one-of-a-kind experience with Jackie Pullinger and David Ruis.
NEED A SPEAKER?- This summer I will be available to speak at conferences, events, pool parties, etc., and to lead workshops on issues of Social Justice, Spiritual Formation, The Kingdom of God, and House Church/Simple Church. To contact me please email me at the address above. Dates are limited and mid-August is already booked.