In early to mid 2000's I was working as a software developer for a small development business on the Gold Coast. I was one of 5 people involved in the business, all of us 'Christians', hoping to funnel money made from commercial projects into high school chaplaincy, supporting as many 'chappies' as possible with what profits we could make. Initially, after my employment, things looked pretty good as we had a product on the market that provided a stable income stream, and had additional development work scheduled for a year or two.
Unfortunately, in the software industry, development work is long term, and resource hungry, so when work for a client finished, it can take a while to establish new long term contracts that everyone can roll onto. During this time, bills and wages still need to be paid, and twelve months or so after I was employed, we were faced with the choice of leaving the business, or taking a substantial pay cut. All of us chose to stick it out as we believed in the vision of the company, and felt that the Lord would eventually provide the work we needed to get back on our feet.
For the next 6 months, we pretty much existed as best we could, with mortgages going unpaid, credit cards being maxed out, and some moving back in with parents so we could keep the dream alive and one day, get through this slump and turn the business into a ministry that had wider ministry impact than just writing good software.
During this time, we prayed as a group everyday and encouraged each other to have faith that God will keep us open for business, and that God still had plans for the business. 6 months later, we finally landed some work that allowed us to return to a somewhat healthier wage, however the damage done financially over that 6 month period doggedly followed us for another 5 years. During this time, as we danced with solvency, lost staff (including one of the original owners), and reasoned with loved ones as to why we should keep going. We returned to a familiar crossroad.
Difficult decision making
We could either press on in faith, that things would eventually get better, or alternatively call the liquidators and go into receivership. In the face of the sub prime melt down, when key clients cancelled their contracts with us, and with the remaining owner walking dangerously on the edge of a nervous breakdown, we finally made the decision to go into receivership.
So much hard work, blood sweat and tears had gone into the business, it was incredibly difficult to let it go. I believe all of us found tremendous purpose in working for a business that had a Kingdom outlook, but even more so through supporting each other as brothers in Christ through tough times and sacrifice. That said, when the inglorious end finally did come, it left a few of us asking the obvious question: '...well what was all that about?'. For the employees it was disappointing, however for the owners who had borne the brunt of the hardship, it was devastating.
In the business we expressed a real desire to achieve something significant (in our minds anyway) for the Lord, and yet for all our efforts and standing by faith hoping for the eventual fulfilment of ministry vision, it never happened. It felt as though everything we had been taught about faith, about standing strong in the face of adversity and trial (Eph 6:10-20), and all the encouraging verses, like Jeremiah 29:11 given to us by friends watching the events unfold, had fallen short in an incredibly disheartening way.
In the early morning prayer sessions we had before work, we often talked and prayed about the situation openly, asking the Lord for understanding and reading a passage or two from scripture for encouragement. Towards the end, we often discussed just how different the Lord's desires are different to our desires and motivations.
It is not beyond God to lead a person through the formation, running and eventual collapse of a business, if it means that it brings them to a more intimate understanding of our spiritual condition, and ultimately lead them to a closer, more intimate relationship with Him. Tough love is not beyond God.
We fear failure, however it is through failure that sometimes we are shaped the most effectively. Just before the owners closed up shop, one of them said to me that all this time we were standing on faith that we would remain open, and the bills would eventually be paid, and we could get back to our purposes in supporting high school chaplaincy. We could have just as easily closed the business standing by faith, trusting that if the Lord wanted us to stay open for whatever reason, he would shape our path accordingly.
What happened proved seminal
The difference was that we were hanging on too tightly to what we wanted to happen, rather than resigning the situation to the Lord, trusting that He would fulfil His purpose for the business in remaining open, or in closure, and taking the most sensible path offered to us (receivership).
Even though we prolonged the closing of the business to the latest possible stages, once closed the Lord moved all of us into new areas of life and work. One of us actually became a chaplain, others found employment, or started their own business as contractors. Even though we folded, we continued working together on independent projects and found that it was much easier to earn a living working in loose association, than as part of a formalised business.
Shortly after I left for Africa where I worked with a couple of missions and in doing so met and married my wife. It really did feel that God was free to move us into the new stages of our respective lives, now that our ties to the business had been cut.
Speaking for myself, what I had learned through this time about the difference between God's plans and motivations and ours, helped me as I moved into similar situations overseas with other missions / businesses on the brink of insolvency. What happened with the business serves as a reminder to me that God's purposes in a situation can sometimes be quite contrary to what I think, or desire them, no matter how noble my aspirations may be.
Sometimes it can be easy to say to the Lord '...not my will but Yours be done...', just as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The difficulty for me at least, lies in realising that I often put my faith in a particular outcome I believe God will lead me through, and then releasing that belief of what the Lord's will in a situation actually is, and simply trusting that whatever the outcome, the Lord will have His way and continue to protect and guide me down the path He has set.
Ben Kitzelman has spent the last 4 years travelling between Australia and Zambia, serving for one as a missionary, and is now an IT professional in Melbourne.
Ben Kitzelman's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/ben-kitzelmen.html