Monday, January 9, 2012

God IN the Wilderness

In just a few hours, I begin orientation for a job that is on an as-needed basis—serving as a hospice chaplain.
OK, so it’s not a full-time permanent job.  I’m still jumping up and down, though, like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

Being a missionary and minister, our journey has taken us around the globe and back again.  Many Christians in the United States have taken a hit in this economy, and many of those feel they need to pass on that “hit” to the missionaries they support.  So I have felt a need to supplement our income with other work.

For 20 months, I have not worked.  Men, can any of you relate? 

These past 20 months have been some of the most difficult and challenging months of my entire life.  I am definitely not one to get angry at God.  Why should I blame Him for anything, if He’s sovereign and is always looking after my best interests?  But I’d lie if I said I never asked Him what He was up to.   

For me, Charles Dickens’ famous opening line for A Tale of Two Cities sums up this season for me.  But I’m not just going to quote the most famous part—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Read how the entire first paragraph reads:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

OK, so I never once thought I was going “the other way,” thank God.  But you get the picture.

And I will say that I, in my weakest of moments, experienced “incredulity,” but not in what you think.  I never disbelieved God.  I just wondered if He ever wanted to do anything to rescue me out of my wilderness.  I thought of Moses—sojourning for 40 years in the desert and never getting permission to cross over into the Promised Land.  God wasn’t being cruel to Moses.  After all, Moses made his own bed by striking the rock in the desert twice when God told him to speak to it (Num. 20:1-12).

So in the past 20 months, I’ve often reflected as to which rocks I have struck (or smitten, if you prefer the king’s English).

Human nature is unique.  We always want to go back to our sin.  We say, “Aha, there you have it!  That sin I did or that collection of sins…THAT’S why God is leaving me in Palm Desert!”

But God is not counting my sins against me (2 Cor. 5:19), and He’s not counting yours either.

So the lessons I have learned and am still learning and may never learn this side of heaven…well, they’re abundant.  But one thing I do know is that God puts us in wilderness seasons like I’ve been in simply because He’s God. 

Because He’s God, I will endure it.

Because He’s God, I will accept it.

Because He’s God, I will embrace it.

And you know what?  IN the wilderness, God feeds us! Just like He did Elijah. And we didn't even have to eat ravens, either!

Thank you, my wonderful Father, for allowing me and my family to endure the season we have experienced.  I know you have plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).  I embrace that promise as much as I embrace You and your character.  And I know that this life is not about me or even about my family.  It’s all about you and your great purpose.  I love you, but most of all, I trust you.


Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

~ Psalm 71:20

4 comments:

  1. Congrats as you begin one of the most worthy and most difficult ministries of your life bro. I left other comments at your bride's blog - suffice to say that I couldn't be any happier for you!!

    Godspeed - and hugs -

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Aus. Great to hear from you again. You're always such and encouragement to my wife and me. God bless you, my friend.

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  3. Is it okay if a woman answers???

    I want to tell you just how important this role will be (as I am sure you know already). You will be meeting people facing impending death and their families. This is a very trying and vulnerable time for them. It is a time when they are looking not only for comfort, but for answers. Sometimes these people have never had any relationship with God at all. I see this as an opportunity to open so many doors. My family has unfortunately had to have hospice on 3 different occasions and are currently in a 4th situation. The hospice people have been wonderful for the most part. They have heard most of the off the wall questions before and are prepared to help you with the finality of life. I believe God is opening up what may be a small door right now but it will be come a very large door soon. I know that you will be a blessing to these families. I feel sure you have been led here for a specific reason....maybe to help the children of these families.

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  4. Thank you for your words, Anonymous. Actually, I didn't mention that I did this work for three years before we moved away. But I take your words to heart. God bless you so much.

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