Wow, I can’t believe how much time has past since I have posted on here! Isn’t it amazing how quickly time flies? I am in awe! I also can’t believe that a year ago I was preparing to fly across the pond to a foreign country that has now become like a second home to me.
I arrived in the States about three weeks ago, and as I continue to adjust to the culture, I have been reflecting about the past year and all that I have learned. Many people have asked me how my year has been, and each time a smile comes across my face as I think about the beauty, the trials, and the challenges that the year held. It’s hard to sum up an entire year in a quick few minutes, but what I tend to say is that it was one of the most difficult years of my life, and also one of the most amazing. Maybe you can relate to that notion. Maybe your year (like mine in many ways) consisted many ups and downs.
As I talked with a friend the other day (someone who has been through more than I can imagine), I asked her if she has ever felt angry at God for all the trials she has been through. I think for me, sometimes I respond to God in anger and self-pity when I feel like I have gone through the ringer, instead of joy and thankfulness that He walks with me through the trials. My friend said something that pierced my heart in a painful, but good way. She said, “We often pray and ask God to give us more of Him, but we don’t want to experience the pain that it takes for us to get more of Him. If we simply sailed through life, we would never need Him and most likely, we would never turn to Him. Almost always, it takes pain, trials and difficulties for us to lean on God and depend on Him.”
Ouch! Truth can be painful sometimes, can’t it? I remember praying this for my team last September: “Lord help us each fall more in love with you and know you deeper this year; whatever it takes.” As I think about that prayer- that oh so dangerous prayer- I realize that God truly did answer it. At least in my life He did. Over the course of the year when the language was difficult, my roommate had to go home (due to the loss of her mother to cancer), the winter was dark and cold, and my love for others was running dry, God showed up. He showed me characteristics about Himself that I did not and could not have known without experiencing those trials. He showed me His unconditional love for people. He showed me that without Him I truly can’t do anything. He showed me the diverse people groups that He created with His own two hands. He showed me above and beyond all that I could imagine.
Even though there were some difficulties throughout the year, I want my heart’s attitude toward it to be one of the thankfulness, instead of bitterness or frustration. Let me tell you, thankfulness is not my natural first response to trials. Probably not even my second or third. But I am learning more and more that if I take my eyes off the problems of life and place them on The Savior, I then can respond in thankfulness because of all He has done for me. When I reflect on His grace, love, mercy, and Son that died to take my place, I realize that the struggles of life are just temporary, and what He has done for me is eternal. In reality, I cannot fully understand the answer as to why I go through certain things or even why my friends have to either. But what I can control is my response to them. I am slowly (and believe me when I say slowly) learning to trust God and His promises more. Often my frustrated response to life’s challenges stems from my unbelief that God knows what He is doing. That He has a perfect plan for my life. And ultimately that He deeply loves me.
More often than not, I find myself saying along with the father of a little boy Jesus healed in Mark 9:27, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” I think that I trust God and His promises until I go through trials. I claim that I truly believe Him, however my heart is revealed through my responses to the trials. My hope and prayer for all of us is that we can believe the God of the Universe and all He promises us. We must dive deep into His word to find out His character and His promises, and this helps us to trust Him in the midst of difficulties. This allows us to cling tightly to Him and thank Him for helping us know Him more through the challenges of life. And this keeps bitterness and anger about the trials at bay, and allows us to pursue thankfulness instead. I am constantly praying this for myself and will pray it for you too. Oh Lord, we believe, help our unbelief!