In 1981 Jani and I sold our home in California and about half of our possessions, paid off all debts, invested the rest of the money, and moved to Scotland for doctoral studies in Old Testament.  My goal was not an academic career but better preaching.  I wanted to improve as an interpreter of the Bible.

Two years into a three year program (that took four years), our investments failed.  Suddenly, we had no income.  In fact, we were so broke we didn’t even have the money to buy plane tickets home and quit.  And my visa did not allow me to work there.  Moreover, about that time we had our fourth child.  We had tried to plan and provide in an intelligent manner, but it all fell apart.

We prayed.  And just as suddenly, people began supporting us.  We did not ask for this.  God undertook for us.  The photo above is the stack of receipts from our bank where we deposited the checks as they came in.  We kept these as a reminder of the faithfulness of God and the kindness of so many friends.  To this day, I cannot think about this without seeing my life as a gift of grace.

I am not absolutizing our experience as the standard of authentic Christianity.  I am not saying that God always rescues us from suffering.  We ourselves went through many difficulties during this time.  And I am certainly not recommending that we treat life as a reckless roll of the dice.  I regard our experience from 1983 to 1985 as highly exceptional.  But God is able to do exceptional things for people in desperate need.

We made it all the way to the end of my doctoral work and landed back in the USA with thirty-five cents in our possession.  We began again.  But this time with a more vivid personal awareness that God is able.

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10 thoughts on “Not that I would recommend this, but . . .”

  1. C A Stilwell says:

    To paraphrase my wife when we were in a similar financial pickle: God did not call you to go to Scotland to have you starve to death. Among other things, he did it to show His faithfulness.

  2. Erik McEntyre says:

    Absolutely on time! I am trying to finish classes at Gordon-Conwell. I have $1.86 in my account and just got a bill for $2,000.

    God is faithful regardless of the outcome!

  3. Eric says:

    Dad, I can vividly remember you praying out loud at the top of the stairs in our little home in Scotland after you found an envelope full of money on our front doorstep one morning, with no idea who left it for us. (You still don’t know, right?)

    Never forgotten you doing that, Dad.

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Yep. Still don’t know. But I certainly remember.

  4. IT’S AMAZING THAT YOU WOULD POST THIS; THANK YOU SO MUCH, NEEDED THIS. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

  5. Susan Fisher says:

    Ray, thank you. This was tremendous encouragement for me on a day that I needed it.

  6. Wyeth says:

    Thank you. I agree this is right on time, and it is a tremendous encouragement. My wife and I just got through talking about our family’s lack of money.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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