My Difficult But Sweet Calling
“Abide in Me,” Jesus tells me.
It was a cold January day, the morning after I’d moved across the ocean from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Kyiv, Ukraine. I stood looking out the window at the deep ice that had collected on parking lots and sidewalks and wondered, What am I doing?
In my eight years since, living in Kyiv and traveling the world, I’ve learned that God knows me, on whatever continent I call home. He helps me conquer my fears—providing exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. And He uses me in my weakness. I only need to take one step at a time in obedience.
God often uses the world’s brokenness to soften my heart, such as on my visit to Kolkata, India, in September 2016. I was there to assist our new EFCA ReachGlobal city team leader in “social mapping”—where we interact with local ministries to make sure we aren’t replicating ministries already there.
One day, I found myself listening to a father talk of his joy at being able to provide shelter for his family. His three children stood in front of him, beaming with pride as their mother stirred dinner in a large kettle over an open flame in the background.
Their home consisted of one room, about the size of a utility closet, off the back of an underground parking garage. Exhaust fumes from the idling cars nearby filled the air. He was the garage caretaker, and that is why he was able to live here in a real room, with real walls, a roof and a door, yet no running water. I forced a smile as he shared, but I wanted to run away and cry.
Still, they are the lucky ones. Kolkata is a city of many large slums, where if people have any shelter at all, it’s usually made from trash or pallets—whatever they can pull together to create walls, maybe a roof, rarely a door. Most sleep on pallets in the open.
Yet, Jesus wins
Tears came close to the surface that day, but I often don’t get caught up by the overwhelming need, simply because God has wired me to step back and assess long-term solutions. All solutions begin by looking at verses that remind me of God’s heart for justice in all the corners of the globe.
I ask Him to let the things that break His heart break mine, so that my desire and resolution are anchored in His will – what He knows to be powerful and effective.
I have to keep my focus on God. Only then can I experience His glory. Some days I simply say out loud, “Jesus wins.” That’s my reminder that the suffering and evil around me doesn’t have the last word. The apostle Paul had to focus on that too:
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:24-27).
Jesus is the mystery, and Christ in me is the hope of glory. Without Him there is no good news.
To abide in the midst of all the angst in the world is to realize that it’s not my fight, and that I must focus not on the temporary but on the eternal. I am so very grateful that God allows me to be part of His mission. And ultimately, He is redeeming His creation back to Himself. Some days, I think I can hear communities and the very earth itself groaning—the rocks crying out for God to intervene.
How do I respond?
I follow and engage out of obedience. And I offer a doxology of praise—a word that gives glory to God: “Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, . . . to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!” (Romans 16:25-27, English Standard Version).
After all, everything exists to give attention and glory to God. Even when I see terrible things happening, when I talk with individuals who are suffering, I know that God is working.
I love my job. And when I realize that it’s not my own fight, I am free to enjoy the engagement.
To read more about the art of abiding, read “Confessions of a Modern Pharisee” at EFCA Today.