As I write, many of our missionaries are currently facing some huge challenges. Many are trying to regain support, are facing ministry challenges, or are struggling with health. Many of you are undoubtedly facing challenges in your life as well.
Last week God deeply encouraged me with this passage that I hope encourages your heart also!
Before the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tested Philip.
“Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.”
Problems reveal our need for God.
When we see how impossible a problem is to overcome, it tests our faith.
Problems are opportunities to trust Him.
The next line is SO powerful: “for he himself knew what he would do.”
I write this with a heavy heart for our many friends who, as I write, are boarding flights to evacuate Tanzania. I write for the missionaries in Europe and around the world whose ministries and lives have been put on lockdown; for the students whose graduations are canceled; for those whose jobs and income have become impossible because of lockdown; and for the many other thousands of lives that have been shaken.
When troubles come, it is ok to mourn the loss of hopes and dreams. As parents, it is also ok to let our kids be sad over how their lives are changing. Our hearts need to go through the grieving process. The Psalmist regularly laments and cries out to God in grief. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan” (Ps. 55:1-2) God doesn’t silence our cries or ignore our tears. He bottles them. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8) There is a healthy time for lamenting and grief; it is the first step in confronting loss so that we can reach out to God. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Ps. 30:5) Let our mourning turn us towards God, not away from Him.
Like Job, many may be wondering in their heart “Why Lord?”. For Job, God didn’t reveal the reason; He revealed Himself. For many that are struggling with loss, grief, and disappointment while trying to make sense of their world: God may not reveal the answer, but He does promise to reveal himself. “If you seek him, he will be found by you”. (1 Chron. 28:9)
Here are 4 ways that God has revealed Himself in His word that have encouraged me through disappointment and loss. I pray that they will encourage and strengthen your heart as well!
As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, how will we respond? Trials test the theology of our heart. While our mind may know that we can completely trust God, our heart is often a few steps behind. The theology in my head hasn’t changed since leaving for the mission field. However, my heart theology of peace and confident trust in God has changed immensely and needs continual growth.
God revealed many fears in my heart as we ministered to AIDS hospice patients in South Africa. At that time, South Africa was the AIDS hotspot of the world. The people we ministered to often had TB or MDR TB (Multiple Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis) which is highly contagious and hard to treat. Our health was constantly at risk. When faced with potential threats to our health, how would I respond?
As we serve the Lord in ministry, we are going to face problems. Lots of them. Learning to destress is vital for our quality of life. However, there’s an even greater reason for learning to destress. When we face problems, others are watching. How we deal with stress either makes God look strong …or makes Him look weak.
When problems arise, my natural, emotional response is to worry. My tendency is to stress about how things are going to turn out. But what does this communicate about God? While I may be trusting Him with my eternal salvation, when I worry I am not trusting Him with my daily problems. When I worry and stress, I miss opportunities to glorify God.
Problems are opportunities to respond in faith or fear. Opportunities to worship or worry. If I respond in faith, it shows that God can be trusted because He is bigger than the problem. If I respond in fear or worry, it shows that God can’t be trusted because the problem is outside of God’s control or concern. My head may be trusting God, but when I worry my heart is not.
I have a lot of room for growth in this area, but here are a few things that God has challenged me with. I hope they are a blessing as you seek to become a servant after God’s own heart.
How can I find peace?
If I am serving God, shouldn't God make my life easier, not harder?
I have always wanted my life to glorify God - to live a life that shows God’s infinite power and worth so that He gets all the praise, not me. In fact, this was the main reason I went into missions. The Bible is filled with stories of people who God used to show His power. Reading these stories, my heart says “Lord, use me for your glory, show your power through me!”. Maybe you can relate.
But here is something I missed (or maybe I secretly hoped that I would be the exception): When God used people to show His power- did He use comfort or trials?
They are God’s most used tool.
Think about the stories from the Bible of people God used. He entrusted Job, Joseph, Daniel, Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul and many others with major trials. Most of the people we remember faced great trials. In fact, we remember them because of how they faced their trials. Had they never faced a major trial, we probably wouldn’t know their name.
This has massive implications on our life if we desire to be used by God for His glory. Last time I checked, the Trinity hasn’t announced a change in strategy. God still uses trials. God still uses storms.
So my reality check was this: If I want to be used by God for His glory…I must be prepared for trials. God entrusts us with Trials. Lots of them. Paul said that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”. (Acts 14:22)
Do you want to be used by God? It’s worth it, but it isn’t easy. If we want to be used by God for His glory, we will be entrusted with trials.
A few years ago my wife had to have a potentially cancerous tumor in her neck removed. Hospital waiting rooms are a hard place, but the nearness of God is often most felt in those times. While I sat in the waiting room during her surgery I prayed and wrote in my journal. God brought peace and encouragement from His word.
That journal entry is the basis for this post.
Have you ever had a trial that overwhelmed your life?
You know the kind. When first faced with the trial, it is like a huge cliff in your path, stopping all forward momentum. Your life comes to a screeching halt and from your vantage point you see no way around it.
If you are like me, when you face trials you are quick to look at the whole problem. We never merely look at today’s problem; we look at tomorrow's, and then the next day, etc. As we look at the endless problems that could come our way we think, "I can’t continue”. We don’t feel that we have the strength to pass through our problem.
A few years ago the Lord allowed me to go through one of these trials. In the midst of it, God used the words of Jeremiah to instruct my heart and bring great comfort.
Jeremiah lived a hard life, filled with trials. He was utterly dismayed and didn’t know how he could continue (see Lamentations 3:1-20). But even in the midst of trials, he found hope. This same hope is available to us today.
Our family recently went through a time of uncertainty. While not going into the details, God used this trial to force us to rely 100% on God for our next steps. The situation was completely outside of our control, leaving us to have faith in: 1. God's plan and 2. God's timing.
Over the years, I have realized that there are 2 paths that fear usually takes. Whenever we are thrown into a trial that is outside of our control, it is an opportunity to live in faith or to live in fear.
Here are two paths that fear can take:
1.To fear something is to fear that God is not in control of that something.
2. To fear something is to fear that God’s will is not best for our life.
Fear that God is not in control:
1. The first kind of fear is rooted in trusting God’s complete sovereignty (His eternal plan and control over all that comes to pass). Most of us believe in our head that God is in control, but what happens when a trial comes? I find that my head and my heart are often vastly different.