A global worker told me once that if I had come to the field believing that I could do something for God, forget it! He stated that God more likely placed me in Equatorial Guinea, Africa because He had a lesson He wanted to teach me, and I had been too slow or too stupid to learn this lesson in the comfort of my own home and people.
And another global worker, a very wise woman, told me that I would be tempted to judge what other global workers would be doing. She gave me an example of global workers leaving the ministry field and returning home before their terms ended. She told me to not fall prey to the desire to judge others, but to rejoice always that God was working in His people!
Both of these profound statements I thought I understood, but I had no idea the depths of truth that the words held. I have learned many things in Africa. Many useful things, such as cooking from scratch (and without a microwave), doing without a few luxuries, and tidbits for selecting good vegetables and fruits. (A few flies on the pineapple indicate good sweetness.) But I am learning and discovering other things that will, I hope, shape the way I speak of my Lord, teach my children, and disciple those He has put in my life.
God is a God of revelation; He is always teaching me.
We all have our own story. We all work uniquely into our Lord’s plan. But it is man (and us girls too) and man’s desire to control things that gives us the idea that we can say…success is of God. Or say things like…defeat is of man. Actually, I have come to believe that this is not true at all. Before…before Africa I truly believed that indications of failure meant that God was not in the picture, or that the particular situation was evidence of being outside the will of God. BUT, I have discovered that God is more complex and not nearly so black and white as that.
Let me explain. First, before I arrived in Equatorial Guinea, Africa, I experienced a number of successful ministries in the United States. I was a director of a ministry for women, and launching that ministry, we saw miracles of women coming to the Lord, miracles of funding, miracles of volunteers and many exciting years watching God move in dramatic ways. I also have been involved in evangelism where the Lord brought prisoners in barbed wire confinement to accept salvation in a matter of two hours of testimony and music. These miracles were beyond my wildest expectations! I took these experiences wrongly to mean that if I was in His will in my personal and ministry life, then…there would be results and the results would be big! I was wrong.
However! And this is a big revelation for me, however…when there is so much fruit and success, we tend to look at the fruit as the desired goal. (Read that again slowly) Fruit should never be our goal. Success in numbers or salvation or cash obtained should NEVER be our goals!
The desired goal is the encounter with God, for this is what our personal relationship with Him is derived from. Our relationship with God does not come from the final product, the fruit, the salvation or others, or the money in the bank. The relationship comes from our seeking His will, prayer and constant walking the path along the way with Him.
When this thought occurred to me, I realized that if it is the relationship that is to be desired with all my heart, and not the end result of my toiling, then the times of turmoil and times of doubt were a part of this relationship also. Perhaps a major part! Just as in a marriage—a really strong marriage has endured times of trials and conflict, pain and loss, sometimes inflicted from outside the relationship and sometimes imposed by either or both partners. But when the marriage comes through rough times, the partners come closer together and share a more intimate understanding of each other.
And so, it is with our relationship with Christ Jesus. And so it is with prayer. A writer once wrote, “God’s object with us is not to give just so many things and withhold so many; it is to place us in the tissue of His Kingdom.” What this writer is saying is that it’s not so much the result of the prayer, but what’s going on during prayer time. It’s the communing with God that’s important. And therefore, during times of trial, if we are communing with God then this is the will of God.
God’s business is doing powerful miracles through us as an encounter with us. And God’s business is letting us experience defeat, trials and sorrow as an encounter with us also! Both encounters bring us into a closer, unique relationship with Him.
So it is that when we wrestle with the Lord, it is His will that we wrestle. And, if things only go well for us, then generally speaking, there is no need to wrestle!
I’ve found that Christian life on the field can really be challenging! Not just in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense as well. Language learning is hard for me and when I can’t communicate, I can’t really testify of God’s grace with my mouth, which in the past has always been my favorite tool! I’m not surrounded by my usual Christian support and our work is slow with little signs of fruit. Slow, exhausting global work just did not fit my old mold of juicy ripe ministry!
I’ve had several wrestling matches. Have you?
Have you ever been on a journey with the Lord and discovered that you were walking in the dry desert much longer than you wanted? Did it feel like 40 years before you got into greener pastures? Is there a sort of dry sandy taste in your mouth when it seems God is being silent and you are writhing in thirst? These encounters, as hard as they are, my dear friends, draw us closer to the Lord and test our faith, purging impurities from us. The tragedy is that some people view failure as an indicator of their relationship with God and choose at that point to water down the intensity of the relationship in shame. Wrong move. God is God. His thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways…remember?
Oh dear friends on the field, if you are experiencing times of trials, please, do rejoice and do not despair! Don’t forget, ever, the Lord has purpose in all things!
Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:1-4 (NAS)
Go ahead, crawl into the ring and wrestle!