I recently received a beautiful letter from a listener asking me to recount personal stories of God’s provision as a way to encourage others to trust Him more fully, as well. Of course, any time is a good time to reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God, but Thanksgiving week seems an especially ideal time for doing so.
Therefore, that is the topic for this week’s podcast episode. In it I share some of our family’s favorite memories of the miraculous and amazing ways God has provided for us in the past, along with ten lessons we’ve learned about approaching Him in prayer about our needs.
I’ve provided an outline of those important lessons, along with my listener’s lovely letter in its entirety, below today’s show notes, but you’ll need to listen in to hear details of our personal anecdotes, as it’s too much to fit into a single blog post. Enjoy!
- “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
- “… you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” – James 4:2-3
- “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” – Luke 1:37
- “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” – Matthew 7:11
- “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.” – Proverbs 19:17
- “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38
- “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” – Psalm 90:17
- “…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
- “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits…” – Psalm 103:2
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
- “Not my will, but thine be done.” – Luke 22:42
- “Naked I came into this world. Naked I shall depart. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
- “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7
- “Once I was young, and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” – Psalm 37:25
- George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans – a biography of this great man of faith
- Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime – another favorite missionary biography
- M Is for Mama – a book by my dear friend (the mom of 10 who took my daughter to Europe)
- The Long Winter – all the Little House books are great, but this describes an especially hard time
- Mary Emma and Company – ditto for the Little Britches books — they’re all great (see especially Little Britches, Man of the Family, and Shaking the Nickel Bush)
- Belles on Their Toes – the sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen
- Glad Tidings – a print copy of the Christmas letters my husband reads aloud each December
MORE RELATED LINKS:
- Raising Baby Squirrels: a video of the squirrels our daughter rehabilitated
- Successful Garage Saling: tips for shopping or selling
- Praying for Your Unborn Baby: prayers we pray from the moment we learn we’re expecting
- Praying for Your Friends: a free printable prayer guide for praying for friends
- Be Careful What You Pray For: the story of our selling the first house we built
- Traveling Europe: a few pics from my daughter’s trip to Europe with family friends (Bonus: Info on how we’ve flown to Europe for FREE with our big family three different times)
Q: Any stories of God’s provision?
The idea for this week’s podcast came from the following letter I received from a listener. It is so thoughtful and well articulated, I wanted to reprint the whole thing before answering.
Dear Mrs. Flanders,
Surely, in your years of raising a large family, you have seen examples of God’s provision. In these times of inflation and debt and shortages, raising a large family feels like signing up for a future of poverty. Do you have any current posts on your website, or would you consider a post at some point, regarding God’s provision? Especially with personal testimony of how God has provided for your family in the past? Or any similar stories from friends, history, etc?
I know the “health and wealth” gospel is a lie, and that God does not guarantee us a comfortable house or a full pantry. But he does tell us to not worry about tomorrow, and that he knows what we need. He also told his people so many times in the OT to continually retell the stories of his faithfulness to the next generation so they would not forget him. I think it is helpful to continue this practice as a community of Christians. Rather than to communally bemoan the current government and predict a miserable future, to collectively retell our stories of God’s faithfulness and provision. To bolster each other with God’s sufficiency, not ours.
Personally, I am pregnant with a fifth child I was not feeling ready for yet. And trying to figure out how to fit a fifth child in our house and car feels impossible in the human economy we live in. I know God’s economy is unlimited. But i can’t see his future provision today. It is so easy to become fearful and discouraged. Surely I am not the only one bearing this burden, and so I wondered if you might be willing to employ your social media presence to be a reminder to us all. To help us turn our eyes to God. To encourage us to tell our stories in comments. To remember them ourselves and to read each other’s.
…I think we need it.
Thank you, always, for sharing your faith with the public…God has made it fruitful. As a mom of a conspicuously “large family” for my area, It helps me to know there are other large families working faithfully at their God-given tasks, even if they are far away.
A: Yes… and I’m happy to share!
Well, I think this listener’s idea is a great one, and what better time to share a few instances of God’s faithful provision than the week of Thanksgiving.
The answer is, yes, our family has countless such stories I could recount – far too many to fit in a 20-minute podcast – but I’ll share a few of my favorites along with some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. I hope they’ll be an encouragement for when you, too, might be facing difficult times.
Thankfully, we serve a God who is interested in the details of our life. We will never face a problem too great (or too small) for Him to handle. We will never experience a need that His riches in glory are insufficient to meet.
I’m not just saying this theoretically. I can back it up with personal anecdotes and, even more importantly, I can back it up with Scripture, starting with this reassuring promise:
But our family also has stories, dating back decades — miraculous answers to prayer — which I’ll share along with ten important lessons God has taught us along the way.
1. Be willing to ask
As James 4:2 explains so succinctly, “You do not have because you do not ask.”
I’m not suggesting you pray for a Lamborghini. Again, God is not a genie in the bottle. And James goes on to explain, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
But, if your requests are not rooted in selfish pride or ambition, you needn’t be afraid to pray big prayers.
Also, You don’t need to understand how God could answer your prayer in order to pray. He fed the children of Israel with manna from heaven for 40 years in the wilderness. Who would’ve seen that coming? With God, nothing is impossible.
An example of this principle in action is a story that served as a turning point in my daughter Rebekah’s prayer life. She and her sister rescued two baby squirrels that had fallen from their nest and brought them home to take care of until they were old enough to release.
Since their eyes were not even open at the time, this entailed feeding them every two hours, round the clock. Unfortunately, the little boy squirrel died. Worried that Miss Suzy (the remaining squirrel) would not develop properly without a companion, Rebekah begged God for a miracle.
Less than 24 hours later, a small cardboard box mysteriously appeared on our doorstep with a replacement inside — another little boy squirrel, whom we named Oliver. We later learned that a neighbor’s dog had carried the tiny thing home in his mouth, and not knowing what else to do with it, the neighbor brought it to us.
In reality, she was only making the delivery; the package came from God in direct answer to our daughter’s prayer.
2. Be open to secondhand blessings
Back when we first got married, my husband and I were both poor college students. But at least we had jobs while we were in college. Soon after that, my husband quit his jobs (he’d been working three at the time) to start medical school, and I quit my job to stay home and care for a rapidly growing number of young children. So we were even poorer (at least by earthly standards).
One of the ways God provided for us most often during those lean years was through garage sales. The clothes we wore, the books we read, the furniture we sat on, the gifts we gave… almost everything came from garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, or thrift stores.
Once you get past any hang-ups about using things that previously belonged to something else, owning second hand is a huge money-saver.
As I reminded my husband when he wrinkled his nose at some glassware I thrifted, if you eat out at restaurants, you are drinking out of cups somebody else has used. Ditto for bedsheets if you stay in hotels. So what’s the difference bringing them home to use here?
Another instance of God’s provision: I used to keep a running list of the things our family needed so I’d remember what I was looking for when shopping garage sales. We’d go garage sale hunting every Saturday morning, and I’d pray over my list before we ever set out.
One week, we noticed a sign that read “Sale of the Century” — and that was no exaggeration. I found just about everything on my list at that one sale, including a new winter coat for my 4-year-old son that was in mint condition for only 50-cents.
3. Be specific in your requests
Don’t be afraid to offer up detailed prayers. The nice thing about being specific in your requests is that you’ll be more likely to recognize the answer as God’s gracious provision when it so perfectly lines up with what you asked for.
That was definitely the case with my garage sale shopping list. I was constantly amazed by how faithfully God directed me to sales that had exactly what I was looking for.
After seeing how quickly God answered so many of my prayers, my mother decided to start praying specifically over our Saturday morning shopping trips, as well. One of the first things she prayed was some Desert Rose dishes.
She already had a small set, but knew the number of place settings she had would be insufficient to keep up with our rapidly growing family. “I’m not in a hurry,” she told the Lord, “but I’d love to find some more dishes in that same pattern at a garage sale for a good price someday.”
The very next week as we were following signs, we ended up far away from home. But one of the garage sales we stopped at had a huge collection of the china my mother had prayed for, including lots of serving pieces, like divided vegetable bowls, all for $1 a piece (which was a small fraction of what the set would’ve cost new).
4. Be generous with others
You can never out-give God. Be generous. Share freely with others. Be a channel of blessing. Be the hands and feet of Jesus when it comes to meeting the needs of others.
The Bible directs us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38
I’m so grateful God taught me this lesson early in our marriage: Although we both had jobs when we first wed, Doug and I were both poor college students. However, once he started medical school, his course work was all consuming and he hadn’t time for an outside job.
And since I had left my job to stay home with a new baby by that time, we were living on school loans. So when my husband came in one evening and told me he felt led by God to pay two month’s rent for an elderly neighbor who was about to be evicted, I feared we’d soon be in the same boat.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Within a few days of receiving our check for the neighbor’s rent, we got a call from the front office offering to cut our own rent in half if we’d be willing to answer phone calls three nights a week (which they’d transfer to our home).
We agreed, and paid half rent for the next five years we lived there — beautifully illustrating the truth of Proverbs 19:17, “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.”
Please note: Generosity is not limited to giving money. When our firstborn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 22 months and had to spend a week at Children’s Medical Center, I had one sweet friend who sent us a check to help pay for medical expenses. But I had another friend who really wanted to help us out, too, but her family was living on a shoestring budget, just like we were at the time, and they weren’t in a position to give financially.
However, while Doug and I were at the hospital with Jonathan, she and her husband and their two young children came and cleaned our entire apartment – better than it had ever been cleaned before — and even left a huge container of six-week, bran muffin mix in our refrigerator and a beautiful Easter lily on our coffee table.
I cannot tell you what a wonderful blessing it was to come home to a clean house, good food, and that beautiful reminder of God’s love for us. And I still thing of that precious friend every time I see an Easter lily…
5. Be proactive by praying early
Don’t wait to pray until you’re desperate. Prayer should be our first response, not a last resort. So just side-step all the anxiety and pray early.
Keep working and doing what you can on your end to meet your needs while trusting God to bless the labor of your hands and to provide for your needs just as He promised he would.
A good example of this principle in action is something that happened to my daughter in dental school. Dental students are required to collect a full set of extracted teeth, which they use in demonstrating their clinical skills when they take their finals.
My daughter had tried and tried, without success, to collect the teeth she needed for this requirement, but had only found three that met the specifications by finals week. Fearing she was going to fail if she didn’t fulfill that requirement, she (finally) prayed that God would miraculously provide the dozens of teeth she still needed.
And He came through. When she went to her desk the next morning, she found a full set of teeth neatly arranged and waiting for her there, a gift from her brother who was also a dental student. He had managed to collect to full complements of teeth, the second of which he left on his sister’s desk so she could have first dibs on any teeth she still needed, but never dreaming she’d need them all!
6. Be alert for unexpected answers
God may not always answer your prayers in the way you anticipate — but that doesn’t mean He’s not answering at all.
- Sometimes God gives you exactly what you ask for (as He did with Mom’s desert rose dishes)
- Sometimes God gives you grace to do without what you ask for (as He did with Paul’s thorn in the flesh)
- Sometimes God gives you something better than you asked for (I prayed Hancock’s would put the $25/yard Waverly fabric I wanted on sale at half price, but instead God led me to a garage sale that had a full, forty-yard bolt of that exact same pattern for $10 — which translates to 25 cents a yard!)
- Sometimes God gives you resourceful ideas for getting what you ask for
One resourceful idea that led to unexpected answers happened when my father died and my mother asked me to make the arrangements for his funeral. Having heard funeral can be extremely expensive and knowing my mother would be living on a fixed income, I wanted to keep the cost down as much as possible.
So I looked up an online supplier that would overnight the casket of your choice directly to the funeral home for a fraction of the normal retail price. I printed out three options I thought looked nice and took those papers with me to meet with the funeral director.
When he showed me a casket that was the same make and model as one that I’d seen online, I told him my plan to have one shipped to them overnight.
Not only did the director offer to match the online price, but he also told me I could save another $10K by having my father, who happened to be a US veteran, buried in the national cemetery for free. I didn’t even know that was an option, but it’s definitely one we exercised.
7. Don’t forget to thank God for His provision
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Never forget to say thank you — and feel it.
A beautiful, historical example of this principle in action: George Muller was always so confident that the Lord would provide, that he would offer thanks even before he had the provision in hand.
He’d have hundreds hungry orphans sit down around the breakfast table with empty plates and not so much as a morsel in his pantry, and lead them all in prayer saying, “Lord, thank you for the food we are about to receive.”
Then, no sooner did the words leave his mouth than he’d hear a knock knock knock at his door, and a man would explain his milk cart turned over on the street outside, and the milk would spoil before the wagon could be repaired, could he use it?
Or a delivery truck from the bakery would drop off dozens of loaves of day old bread that needed to be moved out of the shop so they’d have room for the fresh stuff
8. Be persistent in prayer
Ask and keep on asking. Some prayers are not answered overnight. I’m pretty sure it was George Muller who prayed his entire adult life for five unsaved friends daily by name and died without seeing a single one come to faith. But after he was gone and buried, all five men became Christians.
A personal example: My husband and I have prayed from the day we found out we were expecting that God would draw each of our children to Himself from an early age, and He has been so faithful to answer that prayer.
But we’ve also prayed that He would provide godly spouses for each of our children. He’s given us five wonderful daughters-in-law so far, but we’re still waiting – and still trusting and praying– for Him to send appropriate husbands for our adult daughters (as well as spouses for our younger children when the time comes). But that hasn’t happened yet.
9. Remain open-handed with God’s blessings
Cling to Jesus, not to things, during difficult times. Let us say with Jesus, “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Sometimes God has a higher purpose for withholding something we’ve asked for, and we need to trust His goodness in that. As John Newton once observed…
Something I’ve had to hold with an open hand is my house. We built a big beautiful house 20 years ago which was absolutely perfect for our large family and such a blessing the entire time we lived in it.
But a time came when I realized my husband was wanting to sell it. Even though I didn’t want to move, I especially didn’t want to put our house on the market, since doing so would mean trying to keep our home show ready despite the fact we had 13 people living in it at the time.
It would also mean having our homeschool lessons disrupted and having to vacate the premises every time a realtor wanted to show the house.
So I started praying that if God really wanted us to sell the house, He would just bring a buyer to our doorstep and not make us put it on the market. Which is exactly what He did.
Without our ever even putting a sign in the yard, a man showed up one evening and offered to write us a check for our house if we could be out the following weekend — and we agreed. (Fortunately, his wife objected to that time table, and we ended up getting a couple of months to move.)
10. Be quick to give God glory
Whether God is providing in big, miraculous, ways when you are in a pickle you have no idea how to get out of, or in small steady ways by giving you a steady, reliable job and the good health and strength to do that job, we need to recognize the fact that everything we have comes from His hand. The air we breath. The food we eat. The roof over our heads.
What do I have that God hasn’t given me?
I love reading missionary biographies of great men and women of faith, like George Muller and Gladys Aylward. And I love hearing the stories of missionaries we know personally – stories of God’s miraculous provision and intervention, stories I can’t share here because it might compromise their work and safety.
And I love reading historical accounts that demonstrate God’s faithfulness to families, like the Little House books, the Little Britches series, and Cheaper by the Dozen books.
I also love the truth of scripture, “Once I was young, and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” – Psalm 37:25
I’d encourage you to write down your own stories, too.
I’ve done that – in the form of the yearly Christmas letters we send to family and friends — and we re-read all those stories aloud to our children every year, beginning at Thanksgiving and continuing right through December and into the new year, so that they will remember the faithfulness and mercy and grace God has poured out upon us from the very beginning.
Another recent miraculous provision: My daughter agreed to travel to Europe last summer with some family friends to help watch their ten children.
Unfortunately, she realized the week before they were supposed to leave that her passport had expired. We found out we get a new one expedited by going to a regional passport office in person, but the only office that would grant us an appointment was in Hawaii.
I accepted that appointment, then called my mother, explained the situation, and asked her to pray that we could get a new passport without having to fly to Hawaii to do it.
As soon as I got off the phone with my mother, I re-dialed the regional office to ask if there might possibly have been any cancellations closer to home. They told me, yes, an appointment just opened up in Dallas (nearly 2 hours away) if I could get there by 10 AM.
I looked at my watch; it was a little after 8 AM. So I booked that appointment, grabbed my daughter and all the paperwork, then sped to Dallas.
Thanks to God’s mercy and grace, she had her updated passport in hand by Friday afternoon — just in time to fly out on Monday.
Now it’s your turn
Please use the comment section below to recall your own amazing stories of God’s provision or miraculous answers to prayer. Sharing such accounts is a great way to give Him glory and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ!