2020 was the year of the unexpected. What have I learned? What does ministry beyond 2020 look like? Read below.
This has been a year.
So much loss.
So much anger.
So much unknown and fear.
It would be very easy to let yourself be directed by the fear and anger that seems to permeate every aspect of your life, but let me encourage you to walk a different way.
Let me encourage you to release anxiety and embrace hope. To live as if you really believe that God has a plan…a GOOD plan…for your life and for mine. Let us both rest in that assurance and the sovereignty of our loving God.
I had no idea what 2020 would hold when I requested a sabbatical in the spring of 2019. All I knew was that I needed rest…good rest…and that ministry would be better if I could find that space. As the year continued to bring change and loss and all that I had planned began to fall away, my first question was, “Why, God?”
Why is something good being kept from me?
Why am I being forced to give up my dream?
Why does it hurt?
Why does it seem like I’m all alone in this?
These may be questions that you yourself have asked (or some form of these questions). I’m happy to say, though, that I found an answer. Not necessarily to each question but to the overall questioning that I felt.
The answer God showed me was pretty simple, actually. And I heard it as I was driving through the desolate Craters of the Moon National Park.
I had just left my Plan B (or C or D!) sabbatical time in Oregon…fleeing the fires and cutting the time of “rest” by more than three weeks. I had experienced car trouble in Yellowstone (although I was blessed to meet some wonderful folks that day) and I was nearing 10,000 driving miles. I was tired. Maybe more than when I began.
It was in this moment of exhaustion and having no idea “what next?” when I heard these words: You cannot trust me (God) and choose to live an anxious life. They just don’t go together. You must either believe I have a good plan for you (even if you can’t see it) or you choose to live a life of anxiety, fear and worry.
There it was.
Not an easy answer by any means, and certainly not a one and done solution. No, this was an answer I had to choose daily…and sometimes several times a day. But, I also knew (and still know) that I DO trust God and the good plan for my life. And, in believing this, I must change my thoughts, my speech and how I live this truth out every day.
Philippians 4:8-9 says this:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (MSG)
Here Paul is telling the Philippian church that, yes, things can get ugly around you (we’ve all seen the ugliness in our world this year) and you cannot pretend these things don’t exist but also remember the beautiful things. Remember the generosity and love shown to hurting people around you. Remember that there are flowers and mountains and oceans full of beauty. Remember the giggles of a baby. Remember the smell of cookies baking in the kitchen. Remember that God is good.
So I began, that day, to put this into practice. The first question I ask myself, whenever I start to get anxious, is, “God, what do you say is true about this?” Not, what does the news say or what do my friends say or what did that blog say…I ask God to enlighten me about what is true. And then I rest in that truth.
We are all going to have some bad days and many of us have seen our share of them over this last year. What I want to encourage you to do, though, is trust that even when you cannot see a way out, God has a plan.
Trust in that.
And then live your life in a way that reflects, not only this trust, but the immense love that you have been shown.
I promise to keep doing this. I won’t be perfect at it but I hope that I keep returning to this trust and knowledge of grace and love shown to me by God.
Will you do the same?
May your Christmas season remind you that you are loved and may you know how grateful I am for your continued encouragement and support. I’ll share what the “next steps” are in my next newsletter. Suffice it to say, I am really excited about what my future holds as I continue to work with International Ministries and global health.