It’s been seven years since I created the content that eventually became my book 40 Days of Increase.
So much has happened since then. So, so much.
We’ve moved—lots (as if that’s a surprise to anyone, given our track record).
We bought a business.
We built and sold our house.
I was forced out of my job.
We’ve dealt with chronic health issues.
We stopped attending church.
We’ve seen marriages blow up, friends abandon their faith and things hoped for not pan out.
And those are just some of the big things we’ve personally navigated the past seven years. Layer on top of them all the things we’ve dealt with as a country and people: nasty politics, racial tensions, pandemics and lockdowns, wars, natural disasters, inflation …
It’s been a lot.
So where do I stand on the idea of perpetual Kingdom increase I so confidently wrote about now that I’m seven years further down the path—and possibly a bit jaded?
Does the increase of his government and peace still have no end?
Do I believe his leaven will still permeate every part of the dough?
I wrote 40 Days of Increase in the loft of a 2-bedroom townhome. I was 35 at the time and we had three children ages 4 and under. Our master bedroom doubled as Hope’s bedroom and tripled as my work-from-home office. The company I worked for was getting acquired, which meant yet another corporate rebrand and demanding work.
Family life, given the age of our children, was not exactly a cake walk. Some marital issues were emerging and there were challenging things happening with the church plant we had moved across the country to support.
Needless to say, I was definitely struggling with the demands of life.
Yet in the midst of that crazy season of life, I confidently carried and proclaimed a message of God’s goodness, faithfulness and triumph no matter the circumstances. My conviction around this was unshakable. I knew that H.O.P.E. was Heaven’s Overriding Perspective Every-time and that I would hold onto hope through all of life’s ups and downs.
Until, of course, I didn’t.
Until, of course, life presented challenges I wasn’t ready for, or didn’t have answers for, or I thought I had answers for and it turns out they weren’t answers after all. Or maybe they were answers, but I didn’t believe those answers any longer. Or maybe I never truly believed them, but just thought I should believe them because they were the “right thing” to believe.
This complicated things.
Exploring some of the highs and lows we’ve been through the past few years is for some other time. So, I’m going to jump straight to this past summer, with me on my back deck (minus the glorious mountain views I once enjoyed from my deck), choking back tears of frustration and discouragement, venting my frustrations with God to God.
My emotions mirrored the Israelites in the wilderness, bewildered why God would miraculously rescue them from slavery so they could inhabit a land of promise, only to abandon them completely before they arrived.
That’s how I felt.
We had taken one massive leap of faith after another, hearing God and following his leading best we could in selling our home, buying another and leaving my job.
Initially, these decisions all seemed to carry God’s blessing and we felt affirmed we’d heard correctly. But as time passed and the road got bumpier and the honeymoon period came to a close, I was forced to reckon with reality:
The money we gained from the house we sold (because we felt like God said to), plus the money we were earning from the business we own (because we felt like God said to) wasn’t covering the loss of money and loss of good health insurance from employment (because we felt like God said to), and the cost of living in a moderately expensive part of the country (because we felt like God said to), coupled with other variables out of our control like inflation.
It would have been better if the Lord had just killed us in the land of Egypt. At least there we had plenty to eat. We had all the food we needed. But now you have brought us out here into this desert to make us all die from hunger.Exodus 16:3
Ok, that’s a little on the dramatic side. I certainly didn’t wish we’d die and we certainly never lacked enough to eat. It’s just the sentiment of being duped by God that I connected with.
Why all the seemingly dramatic demonstrations of his leading and provision and rescue, only to hang us out to dry? Why wasn’t he coming through with it seemed to matter most?
When you follow God best you know how, living in faith best you know how and the stakes are really high and things don’t work out … that’s a recipe for disappointment and disillusionment.
It left me wondering:
Do I really believe this stuff any more?
Is God good?
Is God trustworthy?
Is God faithful?
Does prayer even work?
Is there reason for hope?
Why should I fight to maintain hope and optimism when I’ll just end up disappointed?
Is the Kingdom really expanding within and around me?
Bull markets & bear markets
Back in late 2016, after I wrote the email version of 40 Days of Increase and before I released the print version, I shared a message at my church titled A Kingdom of Increase. The content was essentially an expanded and sermonized version of the first three days of my 40-day study.
One of the early slides was this image of the stock market’s historical trend line from 1885 to 2015. A quick glance at it shows that the stock market obviously grows over time. But zoom in and focus on any one of the larger downturns—The Great Depression, for example—and you’d have a hard time convincing people that investing in the market is a good idea.
During a bull market, things are great. Returns come easy. Everything you touch turns to gold. Investing in stocks is a no-brainer.
But during a bear market, panic sets in. The instinct is to pull back, retreat, cut your losses and prepare for the worst. The sky is falling.
As humans, it’s easy to get swept up and consumed by the negative emotions and cynicism that can come with bear market seasons of life—be they cultural downturns that seem to bring out the worst in humanity, or more personal seasons of struggle and trial, like a divorce, job loss or sickness. These can cause you to question if God is really in control, if he really has your best in mind, if he really cares.
It’s during these very times that it is vital to zoom out and be reminded of the historical, undeniable trend line: increase.
“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:7)
“It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown … grows up and becomes greater than all the herbs…” (Mark 4:31)
“It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:21)
Despite all appearances and evidence to the contrary, there is reason for hope after all.
God is somehow, some way, working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28).
It doesn’t always seem like it.
In fact, it often doesn’t.
But we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (Philippians 1:6).
More times than I can count this past year, when I’ve been knocked down by another setback of some sort, I’ve had to decide to get back up, dust myself off, and just keep going.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Psalms 27:13
So do I still believe in my message in 40 Days of Increase?
Yes. Yes, I do.