Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Your Fears Come True

People say I’m brave for living in Africa. I don’t feel brave. In fact, a lot of times I’m downright scared. Before moving to Uganda, I had several major fears that I recognized and had to purposefully surrender to Jesus. The list wasn’t very long, but included on that list were an assault and being rejected by people I so loved. It was a bit of a shock to realize that 2 of my major fears came true within months of each other.

I’m not going to lie and say that I realize now that I had no reason to fear those things. Let me tell you, actually experiencing them was just as painful as I had feared. The loss, grief, depression, anger, and deep aching pain were all very real. No, I don’t believe God tells us time and time again “Don’t be afraid” because there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, there is so much to rightfully fear that comes from living in a broken world and surrounds us every moment. Loved ones agonize through cancer. Jobs are lost. People lie and stab us in the back. Cars crash. Affection is won and lost again.

So how could God expect us to act in defiance of our fears? How could He really ask us to be brave and not fear the things that will cause us so much pain? What kind of sense does that make? It doesn’t. But that’s exactly what makes faith so beautiful. Faith stands in the face of disaster and says, “You will not conquer me, for Christ has overcome.” Faith shouts to love lost and says, “I will still love again, for Christ’s love is more powerful than rejection.” Faith stands and shouts for all to hear, “ What you meant for evil, God has used for good.”

That is the truth. By faith our fears are conquered. By faith, they have lost their power. By faith, I can choose to look through all the darkness and suffering and find the bright gems of hope, peace, and contentment that Jesus will provide. And by faith, I can be grateful for even the things I feared most.

Some of my greatest fears have come true, and I have seen they are small in Jesus’ hands. There is nothing too big that He cannot overcome. There is nothing too painful that He cannot heal. There is nothing too ugly that He cannot make beautiful. My faith is not unfounded or foolish: it is proven right every day. When I was broken and at a loss as to how to heal, Jesus pursued my heart and brought one thing after another to convince me of His love. When I was grieving the loss of so much, Jesus led me into an even deeper connection with God, and showed me a glimpse of what it is to be totally satisfied in Him. Jesus demonstrated that all my fears become nothing but a tool for Him to bring blessing.  

That is why I will again choose to surrender my fears to Jesus. I will choose to live in a place that is not completely safe. I will choose to give of myself to people that could reject me. I will choose to love people even if they don’t deserve it. I will choose Africa again, because I know that is God’s choice for me and His choice is perfect for me. I will choose faith.

What fears have you seen conquered by Jesus? How has His power been demonstrated in the things you have feared the most? 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When They Don't Love You Back

As a missionary, I believe my single most important role is loving on people. In Uganda, that can look like a huge variety of things on a daily basis: verbal encouragement or praise, paying for school fees, listening to someone’s story, giving someone a ride, teaching a truth from God’s Word, tight hugs, a trip to the clinic, or even just a cheerful ‘How are you?’ I just love the myriad of opportunities I get to love on people, but love that has impact must also be very intentional. It takes thought, planning, praying, and sensitivity to the Spirit. And when Jesus binds hearts together with His love, it’s an incredible thing!! But what happens when the person you so intentionally loved, doesn’t love you back? Or even worse, stops loving you?

Over last year, I developed an amazing friendship with a Ugandan family that I just adored. I spent hours in their home, sitting on their bed laughing, crying, cuddling their baby, trying new foods, and sharing the work of God in our lives. It was amazing. I had hoped and prayed for a friendship with Africans just like this my whole life. I learned so much from them, and I shared so much of my own life with them. I loved their children like my own, and cherished every opportunity to be with them. They welcomed me into their home, and I welcomed them into mine. They even came and lived with me for a time, and it was such a dream come true for me. But one day, everything changed. I discovered I had been lied about and lied to. When I confronted, that led to even more lies and deceit. In the end, the friendship was broken, and the family moved away. I grieved for months. I still grieve that loss. I loved them so much. I still love them so much. I miss my friend. I miss my children. I miss that sweet bond.

I wish this story had a happy ending. It doesn’t….yet. But I believe in a God of miracles. I believe in a God of restoration and reconciliation. I pray they will repent and we will be restored. I pray continually that even if I can’t see them again on earth, that one day we will be re-united in heaven. I pray for their healing, physical and spiritual. I pray for their provision and comfort. I pray for them because I still love them.

You might ask, was it worth it? Was it worth giving so much time, energy, emotional investment, and care, only to lose them? Yes. It was worth it. It is worth the pain now. It is worth the grief and loss, because I know Jesus has used every moment for His good purpose. Jesus Himself loved freely, even knowing the ultimate betrayal and loss was coming. If this is just one way I can join in the sufferings of Christ, I will rejoice in it.

The natural reaction to pain is protection. When we are hurt by someone, we naturally curl up into a ball and try to protect ourselves from that kind of pain ever happening again. It would be only natural for me to shy away from investing my love into others like that again. But I thank God that there is nothing natural about His love. His love defies logic. His love breaks down walls. His love empowers us to act in ways impossible for our weak natures. His love relentlessly pursued me in the face of rejection and fear, and I know it is that same love that He will continue to pour out through me to others.

Please pray for this precious family. Please pray for me.  Please pray for the power of the love of God to have its effect. I know He is at work!