I've been working on our home assignment audio-visual presentation. It's been a lot of work, especially since it requires sorting through hundreds of pictures to choose the ones we want to use. I was hoping to put together something that would be really "Wow!" Well, in the end it's just a power point with some music and a few slides coming in with a fancy spin. But it's our story, and our story is nothing more than God's story when it comes right down to it. In fact, I have used Big Daddy Weave's song, My Story in part of the presentation. If you're not familiar with the song, you can listen to it here.
As I looked over the past four years of this term there were days that we felt we had reached our ability to endure. We started the term in July 2013 and we were still recovering from the flood of 2012. We have all of our "normal" stresses such as living in an extremely hot climate, living in the poorest country of the world, living in a country that is 98% M*sm and knowing we are in the minority, dealing with crazy driving, and living with the climate of insecurity in the country. On top of all of that, we have had some serious personnel shortages in the past few years that left both of us taking on extra responsibilities. The church burnings in January of 2015 really took their toll on us. Then there were all the problems our own church has been struggling with in the past year. Not to mention all the hard work John has put in to finish his doctorate (his defense is December 5th!).
Honestly, some days it would just be easier to pack it all in and quit.
But we are so glad we haven't because through it all, we have seen God at work. He has given us strength for each day. We have a great team to work with and good friends around us. We have been amazed at how the churches have worked together to rebuild and how people around the world donated funds to help. In spite of problems at church, we have seen God bring many to repentance and we saw deep spiritual growth in the students in our Bible study. In spite of days of exhaustion and discouragement, John has kept his hand to the plow and has accomplished all of his requirements for the doctorate (after his defense he may have a few more changes to make).
Reviewing this term really made II Corinthians 1:8 and 9 come alive for me.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.Wow, even the Apostle Paul felt the pressure, wanted to quit, and was in such despair he didn't want to keep living. I think that for any of us who have ever felt like everything is too much, that these words are incredibly comforting. Mostly they are comforting because he doesn't end it there, with us all wallowing in our despair. Instead he gives us hope: This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
If it's up to me, we might as well just quit right now. I'll do the wrong thing. I'll put my foot in my mouth. I'll get discouraged. I'll get angry, especially at certain drivers. I'll quit. As our pastor said in a recent message, "I'll take my ball and my bat and go home". If I have to suffer, well, I just can't. But guess what? It's not about me and it's not up to me! It's about God. It's about the gospel. It's about the Messiah. And it's up to him. He'll get the work done. If he can raise the dead, he can do anything.
Not only that, but my suffering actually has a purpose. The purpose is that I will learn to rely on God. I'll really understand that it's about him, not about me. Andrew Murray says,
Humility is not something that we bring to God or that He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness that comes when we see how truly God is everything.
--Andrew Murray; Humility: The Journey Toward HolinessIf Andrew Murray is correct, then coming to the point of utter despair, of going beyond our ability to endure, of despairing of life itself is what helps us to understand that we can rely only on God. It is at that point that we become truly humble because we are absolutely aware that we can't do this in our own strength. All the pep talks and encouragement of self in the world are not what gets me through...God alone can do it.
It's also important to notice that suffering and hardship is not necessarily a sign of divine displeasure. Yes, God may sometimes use it to discipline us. A lot of it is just because we live in a fallen world. But ALWAYS God will use it for our good, to help us learn dependence on him.