Have you ever embarked on a new adventure in life that overhwhelmed you?
Many would agree that, that the adventure that overwhelmed them was going to the mission field. You arrive in a strange land, where virtually EVERYTHING is completely opposite than anything you have ever known. Literally if you took every aspect of your life (manners, customs, clothing, gender roles, religion, politics, child training, social skills, family practices, speech,etc.) and did the exact opposite you would have a slight idea of the shock you encounter when you move abroad.
It's in times like these, when life is more frustrating, overwhelming and confusing than you can imagine, that you fall on your knees and beg God for grace in the tiniest of things. Some of the prayers I have prayed during our beginning years on the field would look something like this.
"Lord, help me not be angry with the woman using my clothes line in my backyard"
"Lord, help me not to be angry with the people who push and shove me through the grocery aisles."
"Lord, help me to remember that the frustration I feel when my electricity goes out right as I go to put my dinner in the oven or blow dry my hair is sent from the devil to steal my peace. Help me to have victory over anger and frustration."
"Lord, please help us to have peace and victory in our spirits as we are surrounded by idol worshippers."
As you read these, you may think,"What trifle things to pray over." But indeed they are not. It is when we bring ever frustration to the Fathers feet and beseech him for grace that we can deal with any situation with grace, poise and joy. It gives you the patience you lack in the flesh, understanding that only patience can provide, strength that only God can give and peace that the Father is in control and all will work out for good.
Fast a Forward five years- We have lived on the field about 6 years at this point and we are generally accustomed to the foreign ways and culture that surround us. Are there times it baffles and confuses us? Absolutely. But we understand so much more and our patience has been strengthened greatly. So we have arrived, right.......? We don't really need the same dose of grace we once did, when we were lowly missionary newbys, right?
We have learned patience. We give a light chuckle over the irrate new missionaries who storm around constantly livid at the culture; the insane traffic, the post office that has you running in circles with no hope of finding a package anywhere, constantly running out of anything and everything you need at the store. Yawn......been there, done that, prayed through and now I'm comfortable. I have finally found regularity in this foreign world and my stress meter isn't constantly bugging out. I'll gladly encourage others as they seek to figure this out but I'm awfully glad that isn't ME in that situation.
As we sink into this boat of comfort, we slowly lessen our requests for grace when frustrations come. They are so much less often and our patience has grown so much it isn't quite as necessary to beg God for grace for every little issue. We begin to master the talent of, perseverance. And not just any perseverance, perseverance with a smile and a praise on our lips. We power through the daily issues ( lack of water, vehicle breakdowns, sickness, lack of electricity, language blunders) without a sweat.
Then however God begins to load your wagon a little heavier. First you are given one heavy situation you didn't anticipate. It's hard, everyone can see that. Anyone would struggle. Anyone would find it hard to have a joyful spirit and a peaceful disposition in this situation. You begin to weaken, but you still lean on that trusty old perseverance muscle you have been strengthening so diligently over the last many years. You know you need Gods help. Anyone can see you do, but you can't seem to find your way back to living from grace to grace.
You power through, it wasn't pretty, but by golly you made it. Whew! Life will be normal now....right?......right?! Hardly any time passes at all and you realize you can't find normal. One MASSIVE situation after another keeps piling on top of you. You look for answers. You doubt. But still you persevere. God gives you nuggets of truth that keep you plowing on. We post on Facebook all the wonderful blessings the Lord has given but in reality we are grasping at any little snippet of light to keep the darkness of frustration at bay. We are more frustrated than we can remember being in years. But if we keep going it will get better....?.....IT HAS TO GET BETTER. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase, "Next year will be better" in the last year.
The new year comes and passes and yet one after another, life altering changes rock your world. Your finding your perseverance muscle is so weak it's begging for attention. It's begging for a break. Quitting never enters your mind, but your daily walk has become reminiscent of one who carries many injuries. But the motto still rings out, "Just keep pushing, just keep praising, IT WILL GET BETTER." But....in a small whisper you think, "I'm not sure how much more I can handle."
A time of refreshment and relaxation has arrived. I sadly limp in and drop in the seat. We are blessed to spend this time with men of a God and fellow missionary friends. From the moment it begins, a refreshment for our very souls begins to happen. The speaker preaches a message on Isaiah that echoed in my heart all evening. I went back and read the passages again.
"Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." Isaiah 6:11-12
These questions filled my mind-
How long will I serve with gladness?
How long will I glorify God in my weakness?
How long will I exalt Christ in my crisis?
How long will I follow Christs calling on our lives?
Do I have an expiration date on my love, service or surrender?
These were very serious questions for me. You see because I had constantly forgotten the grace God had at my disposal and was living on my own perseverance through every struggle and trial. I had gotten weak. So weak I wondered how much more I could handle. I thought surely God would take away the never ending crisis' and give me peace again because he must know, I can't handle all of this. When indeed He had abundant grace at my fingertips everyday through every struggle that could have allowed me to walk with grace and joy through any and all situations BUT I had instead leaned on my trusty muscle perseverance.
This thinking is very dangerous. Because when you start to believe that you are at the end of your rope and Gods not getting you through anymore, you will take drastic measures to find a way out. Praise the Lord, I was not at that place but it's possible for anyone if they don't find a way back to trusting in God's grace.
That is when all those simple, insignificant prayers from our newby days came flooding back to my mind. I started to realize, when did I stop asking for God's grace to face every problem? When did I start to think I could handle this on my own? I'm not sure the when or the where but I knew I had to go back that place where as an overhwhelmed new missionary, I cried out for grace for every frustration, no matter the size. I didn't have shoulders or perseverance muscles big enough to carry the burdens I had in life AND God didn't intend for me to. He intended to show me his miraculous hand of grace in my life everyday. He intended to show the lost a supernatural God, that can empower me to deal with situations unimaginable for normal fleshly man. He intended me to live by grace.
I have since heard a quote that has further encouraged me to endeavor to daily live by grace.
"If your complaining and whining about all the problems in your life you aren't embracing the grace God has given you. Because God gives us all the grace we need for every situation."
Ladies I encourage you no matter how long or short you have been a Christian, missionary or servant, live every day embracing Gods grace. He never leaves you with less than you need. He never gives you more than you can handle, through His grace. And we are never strong enough to persevere in our own strength.