Many of you have shopped at J. C. Penny; in fact, one of our sisters, Peggy, works there. But perhaps a few know the life of J. C. Penny, the man who founded this chain of department stores. In 1929, on his way to a successful career, he suffered a setback during one of the worst economic crises, called the Great Depression. As a result, he was overcome by anxiety and insomnia, causing not only mental anguish but also physical ailments. He was so depressed that he felt that he had nothing to live for anymore. He was finally hospitalized.
It was then that one morning he heard people singing in the little hospital chapel, “Be not dismayed whate’er betide/God will take care of you.” He was so drawn by the singing that he started to walk into the chapel and listened to the song and the Scripture reading and to the prayer. In his own words Mr. Penny wrote, “I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight.” He let go of his worries, surrendered his burden to Jesus, and placed his trust in God, that He would take care of him. We know the rest: J.C. Penny became one of America’s greatest retail merchants. God took care of him, as He promised.
J.C. Penny’s success story may not be our stories, but his story of deliverance is our stories, too. In times of darkness and loneliness, when we felt there was no hope as we lay in bed, God’s Word came, His presence surrounded us, His hand touched us, and His voice spoke to us, “I am here with you.” I call this dungeon experience—in the darkness and alone. Joseph has been there, so have Paul, Silas, Jeremiah, Daniel, and John the Baptist. Sometimes God takes care of us by keeping us away from toil and dangers but sometimes He takes care of us through toil and dangers. Psalms 34:19 reminds us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Many, but what matters is God will deliver us.