Not long ago I was at the market with Kayla, our kindergarten teacher, when we ran into a Swedish girl we had met just a few days before. As we were talking, she asked us how we liked it here Puerto Escondido. After replying we liked it very much, she proceeded to inquire how my first year in a new country had been. Being honest, I told her it was one of the hardest years of my life, but because of that, it had been one of the very best years of my life. She seemed confused to hear a really hard year could be the best year… and it was the perfect opportunity to tell her why. 🙂
For some reason, I’ve never liked to tell people about the hard parts of my life. I think it’s mostly due to the fact that I tend to be an eternal optimist, and want to give an overwhelmingly positive translation of my life. This is especially true of me when speaking to unbelievers – almost as if I’ve had this attitude that the Christian life should appear perfect — full of ease and comfort. I know that’s not how it is, nor how it’s supposed to be at all, and in reality, that’s watering down the powerful truth of God in painting the believer’s life in that way. God’s faithfulness through difficulty is just what the world needs to know.
When it became increasingly clear that God was leading me to move away from the home I loved, to a completely foreign place, to serve at a school that I had never been to, working with kids that probably wouldn’t understand a word I said, living off support raised from friends and family, I had so much peace. I knew whatever my circumstance would be, God wanted to use these changes to grow a greater trust in Him through whatever challenges I would face. At that time God spoke a promise to me in Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
The thing that struck me was that it says WHEN not IF. It’s a guarantee that we will go through rivers and fires. But I am His, and I KNEW he was going to be with me. It was such an exciting time anticipating God to show himself faithful to His promises.
I almost felt invincible.
But the true test was set in, almost as soon as my feet hit the Puerto soil. Before long, I knew how inadequate I was in my own flesh to accomplish what God was calling me to. I was in for quite a ride and had to learn to put my fears and doubts in submission to what God wanted to accomplish through me. I had to learn how to put my faith into action, trusting His promises like never before.
There weren’t a lot of backup plans available to me when I needed them most. When I wanted to go somewhere and realized I didn’t even know how to tell the taxi driver the name of the place, I realized life wasn’t going to be so seamless. When I needed to buy something from the paper store, I found everything was behind a counter, so I’d have to know how to ask for it. Google translate wasn’t made for art teachers. Then the printer would have problems in the only slot of time I had to get my things printed, making it impossible to have the things ready I needed for the day…those are the things you just don’t plan on. I found I’d leave school completely worn out after a long day, arriving at my hot house where the only things to sit on were my bed and a wooden chair.
Although they may all sound like small things individually, they became big in the middle of so much change. The temptation to become frustrated was real. But my frustration was the opportunity to find Jesus as the only true provider and satisfier, if I chose it. God promised to be with me and wanted to show himself strong on my behalf in my weakness.
While I felt like I was growing in leaning on God for strength, halfway through the year, a greater test emerged. I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. In the midst of an already fatiguing job, I felt completely drained to the core of my being. I felt like life was being sucked right out of me. I would come home and collapse from exhaustion, most days in tears. Days turned into weeks and weeks into 6 long months of feeling absolutely awful. Sometimes it brings me to tears just thinking back on it, but through it God’s promises became so evidently reliable & true in my life. I choose to believe Gods promises on a daily basis, and in the middle of my tears, I found hope.
2 Corinthians 4:6-10 became the most comforting thing to me in that time:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
Isn’t that beautiful! God is so perfect in all his ways! “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the LIFE of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies”. Our suffering is not in vain, and we have the most beautiful treasure in “jars of clay”. Yes, its jars of clay for now, but one day we will no longer suffer from this sin-stricken world!!!!!
God is creating a masterpiece in me, and some of the chisels are deep and painful, but I am finding that those are some of the most profoundly beautiful parts in the sculpture of my life, putting the creator Jesus on display.
And guess what! Jesus has fully taken mono away from me!!! My heart sings Psalm 116:
“I love the Lord for heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy….our God is full of compassion…You have delivered my eyes from tears…Truly I am your servant, Lord…You have freed me from my chains…I will sacrifice a thank offering to you…Praise the Lord.”
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed a pattern of wanting to choose whatever path would prove least difficult. Although I want Gods promises to be true in my life, I have often found I try to find the easiest way out of a situation, stealing away the opportunity for God to show himself mighty in the face of it all.
But God has not called us to comfort, and now I can say with all sincerity, I am so thankful he calls us to step out in faith and rely on Him in every aspect of our lives.
In the midst of it all, God has been giving me a new heart for people that I couldn’t muster up by myself. I used to be without hope, and now that I have found the perfect love of Jesus, and the strength found in Him, I can’t imagine living life without him. It makes my heart heavy to know that many live without understanding Jesus’ love for them, and are without hope of anything better than this empty life.
This past year has been the perfect platform to allow God to work in my life and shape me into a vessel more useful for his kingdom. And that’s why this has been one of the best years yet!!
I will leave you with 2 Timothy 1:9-10 because it’s the best news possible!!!
He has saved and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time eternal. And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel.
And Romans 12:1-2:
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
–Amelia Klacik, GEM Missionary