Reclaiming the Sweetness: what to rehearse when you’re dreading tomorrow

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”

Hebrews 12:2

Today is a Saturday and Cody’s here and I’m making cinnamon rolls and Abi is playing in the sand. It’s a sweet day, and I could just enjoy it. But I’m distracted by what’s looming ahead.  

Cody’s leaving Tuesday for a week-long trip to a bush location. In a month or two, he’s planning a trip to the States for his Kodiak training. He’d be gone for a month.

Right now, I’m fighting a cold, not sleeping great, and worried about handling just this next week well without him. I’m still new here. I still find walking my toddler to the market in the afternoon heat and keeping him out of the road while I buy veggies in another language…overwhelming. I rely on that hand-off when Cody gets home, and I’m tempted to compare and feel discouraged when it comes to parenting Abishai without the back-up. Cody would do a way better job, I tell myself. You can’t be all that Abi needs. He’ll be worse off for having spent all that time with just you, especially if you’re not feeling 100%.

This month, I’m going through a Bible Study called “TruthFilled” by Ruth Chou Simons.  One of her main points so far has been this: You are your own biggest influence. No one talks to you more than you do. How vital is it, then, to make sure that what you are saying to yourself is the truth?

This week, the challenge was to describe some of the worries I currently feel and then confront those emotions by drafting a mini-sermon to myself with the truth I already know, but need to work at rehearsing. Here’s what I came up with:

I don’t need to worry about my performance. I don’t need to dwell on all the things coming up and how I will meet them. I don’t need to be fearful because my body is not doing well and the demands are more than I can meet. Christ holds all creation together and that includes me and my life. (Colossians 1:17)

I can see the challenges and still look at these coming days with hope and expectation, and here is why:

“…We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord and your lives will produce EVERY KIND of good fruit. All the while YOU WILL GROW as you learn to know God better and better.”

Colossians 1:9-10, emphasis mine

It’s a prayer laying out what God alone is able to accomplish, what a maturing believer who continues to pursue a knowledge of God, even in their frailty, can look forward to and expect.

I will grow. My life will honor and please God, and I will produce every kind of good fruit as I develop in my knowledge of God’s will and spiritual wisdom and understanding, getting to know Him better and better. And that wisdom? That knowledge of Him? It is not a place I can climb to. It is a gift to those who ask.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

James 1:5, emphasis mine

Even the next verse in James 1 brings it back to this one simple thing: “be sure your faith is in God alone.I am not called upon for my work, my discipline, or my understanding. I am asked to offer my faith.

“This is the only work God wants from you: believe in the one He has sent.”

John 6:29

And so, that which I am asked, I can most certainly do. I cannot know ahead of time what will happen or how to meet it. I cannot heal my body or perform perfectly. But I can trust Him. And that is my job. And as I trust Him, He gives me wisdom and understanding. And as I grow in wisdom and understanding, my life produces what He desires. All I am yearning for in my life springs as the outflow of a heart that decides to believe Jesus; to believe His work, to believe His words, and to depend only on Him, for this next moment, and the one after that.

There are tasks and challenges coming up that I don’t feel ready for. But my first priority is to trust the Lord. And I do that, even as I approach these things, by choosing not to worry. I choose to believe He will take care of me when I get there.

And when it comes to parenting Abishai without back-up? I never had a prayer of being what he needed anyway. Who he needs is not me. But it’s not Cody either. It’s Christ. And Christ lives powerfully in me, still faithfully cultivating growth, producing transformation, and holding out all the hope we need. I am never parenting all alone. Always, I carry about within me the treasure Abi most needs to take hold of.

Christ is sufficient for me. Christ is sufficient for him. Christ is sufficient for today. Christ is sufficient for tomorrow.

And when I do the work of deciding to believe it, He does the work of putting my heart at rest so that I can enjoy cinnamon rolls, breezy Saturdays, and my laughing, sandy toddler without any fear for tomorrow, next week, or any day after.

When Mountains Crumble: a lifeline for the unexpected

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

…The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.”

Psalm 46:1-3, 11

We were so careful.

We delayed our travel. We waited for negative Covid tests. We wore masks for 3 days of air travel and airports. We finally made it to Papua New Guinea. We quarantined for two weeks. An enormous amount of effort and care went into avoiding any chance of spreading Covid from the U.S to our new home. But when we arrived, it was already here.

One day before our quarantine ended, Covid cases here had reached a point of such concern that all non-essential trips to town were cancelled. Imagine moving your family half the world away with only what you can pack into 9 suitcases and then finding out you can’t go to the store.

I cried.

We got through our first week of language learning, and two residents on our base tested positive for Covid. Classes were cancelled. Sports were cancelled. The market is closed. In order to keep from potentially spreading Covid into the community, we’re not allowed to leave the center. Our leadership is carefully navigating an extremely challenging situation, and they’re doing a great job. But the timing was hard.

When I think about why I came to Papua New Guinea, there is one main reason: to obey Jesus. The path up to this point has been full of so many unexpected turns. He has not landed us where I thought we’d be or in the ministry where I thought we’d serve. But I arrived excited, ready to start our life here, looking forward to what He had for us and how He’d use us.

All the unexpected changes during our first days here sharply revealed the other reasons I had for coming here: other hopes, hidden expectations.

I was excited to explore the beauty of the country.Ok Beka, what if you can’t leave the base? Was it still worth it to come here?

I was really looking forward to the sports.What if sports are cancelled and you’re back to running by yourself? Can you still be content?

I couldn’t wait to learn language. What if you can’t have contact with your language teacher? What if developing the ability to communicate here gets put on hold?

After moving from place to place for our entire marriage, I was looking forward to finally setting up our home. —What if you’re using a house full of things that don’t belong to you? What if settling in and making it yours has to wait?

If the other reasons are stripped away, is obeying Jesus a good enough reason, all by itself?

Can you obey Jesus whole-heartedly, even when what that looks like today is vastly different than what you envisioned? When you’ve prepared for 12 years, and then you get here, but it doesn’t look like what you prepared for – can you trust that God knew exactly what this moment would look like and that He has perfectly equipped you to step into it?

During our class introductions, one of my friends shared a verse from Psalm 16. It was a lifeline the Lord had used to carry her through loss, disappointment, and discouragement in a difficult season.

Set the Lord always before you and you will not be shaken.

Before this month, I would have said, “Yeah! I do that!” But He is starting to show me how often it is something else I set before me. And when that something else lets me down, I get discouraged. I believe that, in His love, my God allows those things to fail me. It’s not wrong to be excited or to look forward to good things. But it is crucial for my heart to re-center on the One who is the source of all those good things – the One who is enough even when all the other reasons are stripped away.

He is taking me to a place where I find my hope in nothing more and nothing less than Jesus Christ – crucified, risen, living in me, victorious, able, sufficient.

If I set Him before me. I will not be shaken. Though the mountains themselves crumble into the sea. Though earthquakes come and oceans roar and plans get cancelled and we lose any inkling of what to expect.

The Lord can use disappointment, difficulty and inconvenience to purify our dependence on him – to teach us the secret of joy. And in the midst of this, I would like to let him.

—-

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad?

I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God…

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me.

And through each night I sing his songs…”

Psalm 42:5-6, 8