I recently remarked to some fellow global workers that I have a friend living in the Middle East, who I would love to visit, “But,” I concluded, “I’m not sure I want to go there right now!” “Sharon,” one woman said, “You live in Colombia.” This country I call home has the highest per capita murder rate in the world, the most kidnappings in the world and in the first 44 days of this year, there were 500 traffic fatalities in Bogota, where I live. Why do I stay? How do I do it?
I live here because God has told us to. Generally, He said, “Go into all the world,” not just the pretty, comfortable and safe places. Specifically, in the way that God reveals His particular will, He has shown us that He wants us here. I can stay because of His promises to me. You know them; “Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:6,7) I have found that I can follow my thoughts to their logical conclusions of fear and stress, or I can invite God into my every thought and experience a peace I can’t describe.
Such as when my very “gringo” looking teenage son takes a city bus to a friend’s house I commit him to the Lord and trust the God I know to do what is best. One time, I had such peace while he was on his way home after dark that I forgot to save dinner for him! Everyday as I wave goodbye to my children on their school van, I ask God to protect them in the heavy, unpredictable traffic. Some days I hear ambulances screaming past in the direction they went and I have to consciously pray, supplicate, request and give thanks, in order to experience God calming my heart and mind. But He always does. As I write this, I am waiting for the results of a breast Yesterday as I went to the doctor’s office, I was uptight, until I began reviewing my memory verses, most of which deal with God’s character. The God I know will carry me through. When the doctor told me that the results weren’t ready yet, I laughed. As I walked out of his office, I felt greater peace than I had all day-peace that passes all understanding.
People have left Colombia because of the “stress” they feel living here. Stress builds on itself the way cancer cells multiply in a petrie dish-uncontrolled, parasitic. If I think I have stress, then I now have two things to worry about, the original problem and the stress. God never intended it to be that way. He is Jehovah-Shalom. He is peace. He lives in me and I can be indwelt by His peace. I’m not claiming it’s the norm for me. I often struggle and let my worries take on a life of their own. This past week I’ve had myself explaining to my young children that just because their uncle died of cancer,
it is not always a death sentence; learning how to cook with the use of one arm while the other recovers from a mastectomy; buying a variety of wigs to cover my bald head-ALL in my thoughts. I confess, request, pray, supplicate and give thanks again and again. But when I keep my mind on my God, I always have perfect peace.
Life isn’t always what we want it to be. It’s not neat and comfortable. But the person who said, “Life is hard, but God is good,” got it right.
P.S. Just as I was finishing this article the phone rang. The biopsy was benign. And all that time I wasted, deciding on wig styles!
Sharon Fleming is a wife, mother, and global worker in Bogota, Colombia. Her desire for herself and others is to be able to get a grasp on our infinite and eternal God and then see everything else in proper perspective.