Mary was 77 years old and living by herself in a mobile home. She was in desperate trouble and had no one to turn to. She was caught in a financial trap in which she couldn’t escape. Although her health was starting to fail, she had to continue working. She had no choice; her monthly bills were higher than her social security checks.
To make matters worse, a careless driver smashed into her car, totaling it. Since she needed a car to get to work, she had to buy another car. An unscrupulous salesman took advantage of this elderly woman and sold her a car for $4,000. This car, which was worth less than $1,000, had multiple mechanical problems that cost her another $3,000. Even with these repairs, the car was still unreliable. Since she didn’t have money for all this, she had to put $5,000 on her credit card. The 24% interest on this card made it impossible for her to pay off her debts.
Compounding her problems, her credit card number was apparently stolen and sold on the black market. Her account was being charged with a large number of fraudulent charges. Just as she would get these charges taken off of her account, she would get hit with some new charges.
She called the credit card company about her problem and asked them to cancel the old card and give her a new one. Even after she was given a new card, she was still getting hit by fraudulent charges. The credit card company failed to cancel her old number. Finally she canceled both cards altogether and moved the loan to a credit union. A month later she discovered that the credit card company still had not closed her account and she had two more charges on it. Even though she eventually got her money back, these problems added to her frustrations and burdens.
Confusing phone bills only made things worse. As it turned out she was paying $10 a month for "phone rental" on two phones. The phone company charged her the equivalent of about $3,400 for 28 years of phone rental. To make matters worse, instead of giving her a new phone every couple years, she had the same old rotary phone the whole time. When the phone company was questioned about this they said, "No one forced her to rent these phones."
Government bureaucracy added its own share of frustration. Somehow the title for the mobile home got lost. Normally, a lost title isn’t a big deal; you pay your $20 and get a new copy. However, the Secretary of State said that they only keep records of these titles for 25 years. Since her title was 28 years old, they had no record of her mobile home. Even though she had a photocopy of the title (made by a realtor a couple weeks earlier) and proof of purchase, etc., they said they would not give her a replacement title.
They said she would have to go to court to get a provisional title. On top of the court cost, she would have to post a $2,000 bond (which would be held by the State for five years). Mary couldn’t even afford her current situation, let alone these new expenses. This made it completely impossible for her to sell her trailer and move into more affordable housing. Fortunately, the State eventually reconsidered and issued her a replacement title based on her photocopy and proof of purchase.
Mary had no earthly person to turn to. Her son and grandkids could not help. Some were in no position to help and others deliberately took advantage of her. In fact, some of them contributed to her problems by abusing her kindness and generosity.
I’ll give you an example. Recently, Mary told some relatives that when she moves, they could have her freezer. Instead of being grateful that Mary didn’t sell the freezer to help pay her own bills, they selfishly abused her generosity. Shortly after making the offer, they called to tell her that they were coming over to pick up the freezer. She explained to them that they could have it after she moved. "Besides," she said, "I still have food in it."
They responded by saying, "That’s okay, we’ll take the food too."
Mary heard of a government-housing program for low-income seniors. Their rent was based on the person’s income (30%) and the government paid the rest. Although the apartments were beautiful and in a great location, she knew she could never move there. She knew it could take months to sell her trailer in the recession and she couldn’t afford two housing payments. She also knew she was physically unable to move all of her belongings herself.
She felt desperate, trapped, and overwhelmed. Finally, one day, she realized something had to change. She didn’t know what it would be or how it could be done, but things were becoming hopeless. She turned to God and asked Him to supply a solution. She knew she was asking for a miracle on the same scale of Moses parting the Red Sea.
Unknown to Mary, God started to answer her prayers 50 years earlier. Through her obedience and godly living, she led a young married couple to the Lord. They in turn led a godly life and led their children to the Lord. 50 years later (as a result of her prayers), God started to put a tremendous burden on one of these children (James). He started to become very concerned about the dilemma his "spiritual grandmother" was facing.
James shared his burden with his wife (Ruth) and together they tried to figure out a way to help her. They asked Mary over for dinner. After they ate, they showed her a car they had just purchased. As James was taking a picture of Mary and Ruth standing in front of the car, he said, "Oh, by the way, Mary, this is your car."
They helped out with a variety of problems. For example, they took care of her credit card problem and got her a low interest loan. They also helped her sign up for the government housing and paid her lot rent ($315/month) while they tried to sell the trailer. The trailer didn’t sell quickly because of the recession so they bought the trailer from her so she could pay off her $5,000 loan. Helping Mary sell her trailer cost James and Ruth about $2,000.
James and Ruth moved all of Mary’s stuff to her new apartment and helped clean out her trailer. Ruth even spent 15 evenings over at Mary’s new apartment helping her sort through 77 years of accumulation. Several members of James’ family also spent a great deal of time packing, unpacking, and cleaning. They organized a garage sale as well. A house warming party was held for Mary and she was supplied with many new items. Several people even chipped in and bought her new pieces of furniture.
James and Ruth didn’t know about Mary’s prayers. They didn’t know they were following God’s prompting. At first, they thought it was their own idea. When God put the burden in their hearts He also implanted the desire to help. This desire was so strong that they were eager to help. It wasn’t a burden or inconvenience, but a pleasure.
Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases." If God wants something done, He’ll motivate the people to get the job done (just like he did with Pharaoh, Exodus 7:3). James admits that he passionately hates helping people move. There are few things he hates more. Yet, when God prompted James to help, He also put the desire there. It wasn’t a burden, but a pleasure. Although James worked hard on this project, his wife worked even harder. Ruth sacrificed a great deal to help Mary; so did James’ family.
It is obvious that this situation was a special intervention of the Lord. It would never have taken place without God stirring the hearts of all of these people. The very fact that these people wanted to make these sacrifices shows the awesome power of God.
Although some people have thought that James and Ruth were very thoughtful and generous to help Mary, James and Ruth don’t see it that way. They say that they don’t deserve credit or praise for something that was a joy to do. They say it’s like being praised for going to someone’s house and eating a Thanksgiving dinner with them. There was no sacrifice involved. "Besides," they said, "If God moved our hearts to perform these deeds, how much credit can we actually claim."
There are a couple things we can learn from this situation. First, no problem is too difficult for God. The next time you are faced with an impossible situation, think about Mary. Remember, if God wants something done, He can work out the details. He can move the hearts of men and women to accomplish His task.
Second, there is the incredible power in prayer. God’s special intervention was a result of Mary’s prayers. Mary remained faithful to God despite the impossible circumstances. She could have, like many people, become bitter and discouraged. Instead, she faithfully committed her problems to God and asked Him to resolve them.
It is my opinion God allowed her situation to become "hopeless" in order to demonstrate His mighty power to others. I think He wanted the world to see His ability to resolve intricate problems. We sometimes think (albeit mistakenly) that pushing back the Red Sea with brute force didn’t take much skill. We sometimes think God is so busy handling the "big" problems that He doesn’t have time to concern Himself with complicated logistical and bureaucratic problems. Mary’s situation demonstrated that God pays as much attention to the small details as He does to the large ones.
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