Some of you might recall the line in the hymn “Come Thou Fount” which says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer — hither by Thy help I’m come,” and you might know that it echoes 1 Samuel 7:12: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” “Ebenezer” means “stone of help,” and it was not uncommon in Old Testament times for Israelites to set up a pile of stones for a monument marking God’s help. You can read more of the background on this story here.
A couple of years ago, Do Not Depart called for some modern day Ebenezer stories: those situations in your life when you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the Lord who helped you, those seeming “coincidences” that you knew were really evidence of God’s hand at work. I wrote most of this out then and added a little to it. There are numerous encouragements in the Bible to remember what God has done, not only in His Word, but in our own lives: it reminds us of His care, power, and provision, and encourages us to pray, thank Him and trust Him in our current circumstances and for the future.
Here are a few of my Ebenezers:
- A move during junior high led to a school that was extremely cliquish. Sometimes people toss that word around lightly when they’re feeling a little lonely, but this school had definite, well-defined cliques with very little interaction between them, and I didn’t seem to be accepted in any of them. I’d had a circle of friends before, so I wasn’t sure what the problem was. I had a crush on one guy in the most “cool” group, but of course he and that group were impossible dreams. In later years I found out it was God’s great mercy that kept me from getting “in” with that crowd as they were involved in a number of things that would have been detrimental to me.
- When I was 15, my parents divorced. It had not been a happy home for years, but the break-up of a family still hurts deeply. Besides that, we were moving from our very small town to the teeming metropolis of Houston, I was leaving my friends and all that was familiar and going into the unknown right in the middle of high school, and I was told I would not be allowed to contact my friends or relatives for a while because my mom was afraid of my father finding us and what he would do if he did. I laid on my bed clinging for dear life to Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even though I had only a surface understanding of that verse, God honored that faith and fulfilled His Word. As a result of all those changes I began seeking Him earnestly, God led to a Christian school and a good church, I heard about the college where I would one day attend and find my husband.
- After we moved, when we visited the high school I was to attend, I was convinced I could never go there for various reasons. We didn’t know what the alternatives could be, but we saw an ad for a Christian school. We visited and interviewed, and I wanted to go, but my parents could not afford the tuition. One day we drove to the school to tell them I wouldn’t be able to come. My mom went in, and I stayed in the car. The pastor and his wife drove up, saw me, and came over and told me someone offered to pay my way that year, and someone anonymously did the next year as well. It was through this school and church that I got stabilized in my faith in Christ and grounded in His Word.
- My parents could not pay for college, either, but through various means God got me through five years at a Christian university. Lots of Ebenezers there! But one stands out: an offering from my Sunday School class at my home church allowed me to buy some necessities like deodorant and toothpaste. Coming back to my dorm room, I heard our hall was having a party and everyone was asked to contribute a dime for ice cream and toppings. I had literally only one dime left. As I gave it, I began to feel panicky about not having any money at all to my name. Then God reminded me of the offering just given. He was taking care of me in big and small ways.
- One Christmas Eve morning shortly after our first anniversary, we were driving from SC, where we lived, to visit my family in TX. Our car broke down near Biloxi, MS. It was an old German car called an Opel, and when we’d had problems with it before, it took weeks to fix because the parts were hard to find. I wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out now, how we’d get home and then get back to get the car, etc. My husband found a phone booth (no cell phones in those days), and found a random mechanic with a tow truck in the yellow pages. He explained the problem and then said something like, “By the way, it’s an Opel, so it might be a problem to get parts for it.” The mechanic answered, “No problem — we just bought out the local Opel dealership.”
- I could heap up a whole pile of Ebenezers from my experience with transverse myelitis, but I’ll share just one: when I was scheduled for an MRI, everybody kept asking me if I was claustrophobic. I wasn’t sure (nowadays I would say, “YES!”), but their questions were making me nervous. I was told the day before that I would have to be very still for the procedure, which I think lasted the better part of an hour. The day before, in my Daily Light on the Daily Path devotional book, all the verses were about being still. A few of them: Ruth 3:18: Sit still, my daughter; Psalm 46: 10: Be still, and know that I am God; Psalm 4:4: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still (more are here). Those verses kept running through my mind while I was in the MRI machine, and God kept me very calm: I even dozed off.
- For years my husband had to travel quite a bit. At first I was a total basket case beset by fears, but God gradually enabled me to cope. Three years ago I wrote a post about coping when a husband is away, and it has become one of my most viewed posts in 8 years of blogging. Though I inwardly whined and wailed about having to be alone so much at first, I am thankful to be able to testify of God’s grace and help and to be able to encourage other ladies in the same situation.
- When my son was planning to be married in OK and we were making plans to drive there and back from SC, my husband planned to rent a U-Haul there in OK to bring back our new daughter-in-law’s furniture and the wedding presents. But U-Haul wouldn’t rent to him because someone with his type of car had sued them once before because of some problem. We couldn’t find any other rental options in OK, so we ended up having to rent a trailer from a local business and take it with us there and back. Everything was fine on the return trip until the trailer blew a tire. I don’t even remember where we were at the time — some stretch of Interstate between cities. We tried calling AAA, but they don’t deal with tires on rental trailers. Thankfully my oldest son had a data plan on his phone and looked up local businesses and found a Wal-Mart a few exits up. But we’d have to unhitch the trailer and leave it while we went for the tire. I remember looking out the window and praying that my kids would see God’s hand in this. We were nervous about leaving the trailer there alone, but we also didn’t want to leave any one of us alone to guard it while everyone else went to Wal-Mart. I was praying fervently that no one would break into it and steal any of my son’s and daughter-in-law’s things. When we went to Wal-Mart, they were just closing their tire service center and didn’t really want to let us in, but we explained the situation, and they did. Meanwhile we got a call from our newly-married son, on his way East on his honeymoon trip: “Dad…did you leave the trailer on the side of the road?” They were passing by just at that time and saw it. We explained what had happened, and they circled back to stay with the trailer while we got the new tire, then we went back, put the new tire on, and went to get something to eat together. Though it’s a bit unconventional to go out to eat with one’s parents on one’s honeymoon, there were so many evidences on God’s hand at work in this situation: if we had rented a generic trailer, Jason would not have recognized it as the one we had and wouldn’t have called about it; if they hadn’t been passing that way at that time, they wouldn’t have seen it; if we had been even a few minutes later, we wouldn’t have gotten into Wal-Mart, and as our other calls hadn’t led to any other options, we would have had to spend the night in town and leave the trailer out on the Interstate all night.
There have been so many other situations…wrecks narrowly averted, running late and coming upon the scene of an accident that might have been mine if I’d been on time, financial needs met right at the needed time, finding something that was lost after earnest prayer about it, praying for wisdom and receiving it, a word of encouragement at just the right moment, help for a task that was too big for me, something from the Word that was just exactly what I needed for the day. I am so thankful for His loving, intimate, wonderful care!!
Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.