So far in my faith walk, God seems to present me with themes, or teaching moments, that span over several years. Hopefully that isn’t a sign I’m just a slow learner.
I can remember in high school God poking at all my wounded places until I would fully surrender to Him. Giving over those false idols and footholds that would mar His image. All of me for all of Jesus. But these past few years there has been a running theme of “Trust”. Trusting when everything seems so uncertain. Trusting God to be enough. Trust.
A couple years back, already in my theme of “Trust”, I mentioned to a dear friend that I didn’t understand how things could be so easy for others. Their plans all seemed to align so well in life and they were just where they pictured they’d be. That hadn’t exactly been the case for me. The title of my blog should really be called The Girl Who Runs Into Another Wall; The Girl Who Feels Aimless; The Girl Who Finds Another Roadblock. Take your pick.
My friend was so sweet and shared the story of a woman she greatly admired. This woman had diligently followed God’s tugging at her heart to start a ministry in one of the least reached people groups in the world. For 20 years, she was told “no”, “not yet”, “it’s too dangerous”. She was given discouragement even by other Christians. But she kept trudging forward. Long into the woman’s journey, my friend ended up becoming a missionary on this woman’s team, the first team to be stationed in that part of the world. But before the team was sent abroad, after all those years of preparation and groundbreaking, the mission organization the woman worked with decided to remove her from the team entirely. They wouldn’t even allow her to serve in the same city. My friend wrote, “She never got to serve with us.”
From our perspective that seems like a huge blow. I’m sure it felt that way at first, but my friend made some beautiful points. One, this woman was in God’s will, despite it being a hard fight. The Bible supports anything but a prosperity gospel. More times than not, those champions of faith—Elijah, King David, Jeremiah, Paul— endured awful trials despite their devotion to the Lord. Easy sailing does not equate with faithful living. Secondly, while it is disappointing through our human lens, the vision God gave this woman was accomplished! Regardless of whether or not she gets to see it through to the end, she did help create a ministry team in one of the least reached areas of the world. And only six months after what felt devastating, God used her to start a team and school in another unreached city. From there, she plans to train individuals to go into more unreached towns. So her removal from the team actually led to the Gospel being more widespread.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul addresses the church in Corinth regarding quarrels between Christian believers. Apparently, there was conflict over which apostle they followed. In our culture, it would be like people arguing over which pastor they like the most. In verse 5 Paul writes,
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grows. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3: 5-8
What a poignant reminder. It’s not all about us. We are mere servants. It is God who moves and changes hearts and lives. We are nothing; at least, we are nothing without Christ. This world tells us we are defined by what we do. But God reminds us our worth is not wrapped up in our actions. Our value lies in who, or whose, we are: children of God. So whether we take part in God’s plan by planting or watering, it really doesn’t matter. Just that we show up and do our part.
Ironically, at the time my friend was encouraging me and shared her story about that woman, life was going pretty well for my friend. She had dreamed of being a missionary since her teens. She was one of those crazy people excited by the idea of going to the remote parts of the world, even if it meant danger and “roughing it.” And here she was doing just that: married, baby on the way, and living overseas to love on these least reached people. She was in her happy place.
But later that year her world was flipped upside down. Due to some health issues, she had to uproot her family from international serving to return stateside. She initially felt utter despair; like the rug had been pulled out from under her. Why did God bring her so far along in her dream just to take it away? Yet with each month that passes, she has begun to see more and more glimpses of the beautiful plan God has for her here. She’s now planting the first church among the same people group, only in the States. Some of the families she met abroad have even had connections to the same immigrants she’s met here. It was never the plan she would have chosen and yet she is still doing the very thing her heart always longed for.
Time after time, we see that God disrupts what we view as our perfect little plan. Only later do we see a glimpse of how He was using us for a greater purpose in His plan.
Now able to look on it with a sense or humor, my friend laughed that she had so badly wanted the experience of living abroad and doing the ministry she had envisioned, it really would have needed to be something drastic to make her change course. She wrote to me,
“Neither my friend nor myself would have ever willingly chose our present locations, but God moved us in order to spread His gospel around. That reminds me of the ‘Diaspora.’ Acts 8:1-4 talks about a great persecution that broke out against the church in Jerusalem. Because of that, the church was scattered and ‘those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’ Time after time, we see that God disrupts what we view as our perfect little plan. Only later do we see a glimpse of how He was using us for a greater purpose in His plan.”
We don’t always understand why the Lord wills things in the way he does. But that’s not really our job. We merely need to rest, to trust, and go along for the ride.
“Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor?”- Isaiah 40:13
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” – Isaiah 40:28
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”- Proverbs 3:5-6
When we are in the valleys, the waiting, the unknown, we have a choice about what we will do; about who we will become. The choices we make now affect who we become 20 years from now. Will we grow angry and resentful? Or will we allow our faith and depth of trust to root deeply?
More than ever, when we are in that land of exile, we need to be reminded of God’s truths. We need to remember all the times he has already proved faithful to spur us on and to give us hope of his continued faithfulness. So in this short series, Stories of Trust, I hope to remind you, along with myself, of God’s truth. In this way, we can stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist and finish the race strong.
Grace and Peace,
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”