So what do you do when life doesn’t make sense, when you can’t make sense of what God is doing? What do you do when you’ve been trying to do everything right, trying to follow God faithfully, and everything seems to be crumbling before your eyes? What I (Angie) am writing here is almost more to teach myself and process life, but here is what I’m learning:
1) God made us with emotions, and we can’t ignore them.
Many Christians don’t have a good theology on emotions. The truth is God created us with emotions. He gave them to us for a purpose. They help us understand the effects the world is having on us. They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t to be ignored.
2) Not only can we not ignore our emotions, but we need to bring them to God. He’s not afraid of them. He can handle our emotions.
Have you read the Psalms? If you have and you still think God doesn’t want to hear about our emotions, go back and re-read Psalms again. Most of the book is the emotional outpourings of King David. It is real. It is raw. It is dark. However, if you pay attention, you’ll notice a pattern. At the beginning of a chapter you’ll hear despair, darkness, anger, but as David processes with God, his outpourings of emotion turn into outpourings of praise towards God. Bringing our emotions to God helps heal us. He gives us the perfect, safe outlet to process what we’re going through.
3) Not only does communicating our emotions to God help us, but God cares.
Another thing you’ll learn reading Psalms is that God CARES about our feelings. He cares about our anguish.
Psalm 22:24 “For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.”
Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul.”
Psalm 56:8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Do you hear that? Every single tear we cry is recorded in his book. He’s collected all our tears. He knows our sorrows, and He cares, He loves, He listens.
4) While our emotions were created by God and are real, and while we need to pay attention to them, our emotions do NOT change who God is and what He is doing.
Our feelings, however legitimate they are, do not change who God is. God does not change. Our emotions change. I may feel like God is being cruel to me. But God is not a cruel God. I may feel unloved and that God has nothing good for me. But God is love, He loves me, and He has good things for me. I may feel like God has forgotten about me and my situation and that my life is out of control, but God does not forget and He is in control of my life.
5) When we don’t feel the truth of God, we need to seek God all the more and ask Him to pour His truth into us.
Now let me be honest here, when I say seeking God, you may think that means spending hours in your Bible, hours praying, hours reading spiritual books, but the truth is seeking God in hard times is HARD. Maybe all you can muster is, “Lord, help my unbelief.” (A frequent prayer of mine as of late.) Truth is, for about a solid month I couldn’t open my Bible. I couldn’t muster up any kind of energy to try to listen to Scripture, and honestly I didn’t want to. All I could do was tell God how I was feeling, tell him about my anger, tell him about my doubts, tell him about my fears. I wasn’t running away, but I was hiding. I wanted to speak, but I didn’t want to listen. Then one day as I was speaking, I heard God quietly speak to me, “It’s time to come back.” He was there listening, listening to me vent my feelings. He knew I needed to and He cared, but there comes a time when you have to turn from venting and turn to learning.
So for the second time this year, I simply asked God, “Here’s my heart Lord. Speak what is true.” I’ve re-read my notes from earlier in the year when I was walking through the same struggles, needing to relearn the goodness of God, the sovereignty of God, the trustworthiness of God. I’ve lived in the Psalms, the perfect place to learn how to walk through dark times. Seriously, if you’re struggling, read Psalms. You will learn how to give God all your feelings, even the ugly ones. You will re-learn that God cares, God is in control, God is good, God is just, God is our strength, God is our fortress, God is our rock, that with God we cannot be shaken. Our circumstances may fall apart, everything around us may be going wrong, nothing may make sense, but God is still all those things, and if you cling to Him you will not be destroyed.
Outside of the Psalms, another thing that has spoken truth into me is songs. One song that has spoken deeply to me is the song “King of my Heart”. Bethel music has one version of the song with spontaneous lyrics that has been on repeat for me. It has been more than a song but more of a fountain of truth I desperately need to hear.
One spontaneous part says,
“Somebody needs confidence this morning, that He’ll never let you down. He’s been God a long time. He knows what he’s doing. He knows what he’s doing in you. When you can’t see it, when you don’t believe it, He knows. He knows, and He doesn’t fall off of his throne, and He never will!”
And another part,
“Let confidence rise that He’s who He says He is. He’s good. He’s good. He’s good. He’s good. He’s good. Confidence! Let it rise!”
So when you’re ready, ask God to speak truth to your heart. He’ll do it. Sit back and listen.
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This is our kitchen and eating area. We are very thankful for the blessing of a solar powered refrigerator and gas oven this term!
This is Shawn and Angie’s bedroom. Not much to it but we love it!
This is Kailin and Gwen’s room. Their room is large enough that they each have their own single bed rather than bunk beds.
This is Liam’s room. His room was also the best location to place all of the solar equipment so it is all hidden behind the curtain.
Here is our favorite area of the house. Previously this loft did not exist, but we asked if a lofted area with stairs could be built over the top of the girls’ and our bedrooms. It adds so much space to the home. We are still working on getting remaining furniture, such as a couple book cases and a futon type bed for when we have visitors. It is a great area for work at our desk, play for the kids, space for our family movie nights on a projector, and a guest space!
Here is another view from our loft overlooking the kitchen and eating area.
A while back I wrote a post about prayer and the importance of having a strong prayer team back home holding the rope and lifting us up, a team on standby, ready to lift up requests from the font line. Today I want to go a little deeper and get us all a little more uncomfortable where we are sitting, because let’s be honest, our God isn’t a God of only comfort. If you think he is, you may want to stop reading here and go back to scrolling through Facebook.
I recently watched a video online put together by Gospel Frontier Missions. In this video they presented some startling facts about the state of missions in the world today. It described what we as Christians are doing to spread the Gospel to unreached places, the places where men, women, and children have not had the opportunity to respond to the Gospel, to where there is no witness, to places where people have never even heard of who Jesus is. Sounds crazy right? How are there places where people haven’t even heard the name Jesus? Well, believe it. I lived in one of those places for two years.
In the video (click here) they break the world population into three groups. First, those who identify themselves as Christian, second, those who have access to the Gospel but who have chosen not to follow Jesus, and lastly, those who have never heard of Jesus and have no witness or access to the Gospel. That last group, those who have never heard of Jesus, makes up 29% of the world’s population, or about 2 billion people. So who is reaching out to those 2 billion people? Of those who identify themselves as Christian, only 1 out of 1,800 serve as cross cultural missionaries. On top of that, 72% of these missionaries are serving in areas already considered Christian. Contrast that with the 3% of missionaries that are serving the last group, the unreached 2 billion who have never heard of Jesus. That’s right, only 3% of Christian missionaries are going to those who have no other opportunity to hear of Jesus Christ!
The financial statistics are even more shocking. Of the just over 2 billion people who identify themselves as Christian, only 2% of their income is being given to Christian causes. Of that 2% given to Christian causes, only 6% goes to missions work specifically. Of that 6% that goes to missions, only 1% of it funds missions to the unreached! That’s right, the 29% of Earth’s population, the 2 billion who have never heard of Jesus and have no opportunity to hear the Gospel, are only being sent 3% of our missionaries armed with only 1% of missions funding (0.06% of money given to Christian causes)!
Often I hear our pastor talking about the resources that we have been given, challenging us by asking how we are leveraging our resources for the Gospel. What are your resources? There are at least four that we all have: our time, relationships, finances, and talents. Think about it. How are you leveraging your resources for the least reached, the unreached of the world? How can you leverage your time for those across the world without actually being there? I think there are a few things you can do, and if you get creative there could many more. First, just as I mentioned in the last article, PRAY. Start by picking a country and pray for that country. Next, “adopt” an unreached people group within that country and commit to pray for them. Then, find a missionary working in that country who is reaching out to that people group. Sometimes this can be a bit of work, especially in “closed” countries. This is where mission organizations can help. You can try getting in touch with organizations that might work in the country and ask if they can connect you with a missionary.
Now you have a country, an unreached people group, and a missionary to those people who you can leverage your time for! Beyond prayer, you can email and connect with that missionary. Encourage them by telling them how you are praying for them. Pray for their prayer requests and praise with them about answered prayers. When they come home for home assignment, find ways you can pour into them or help them while at home. This could be as simple as trying to meet up for a cup of coffee, a meal, or a Skype call and simply sit and listen to their story of what God has done in them and through them their last term. If they are close by, help them in getting situated into their home while they are in America. If they are a family, offer childcare so the parents can get a date night. Chances are they didn’t get enough of them on the field. There are many ideas of how you can leverage your time to encourage missionaries.
Your next resource is your relationships. You have a social network of friends, family, and coworkers that the missionary doesn’t have access to. You may go to a different church, have a different small group, or a different Sunday school class. Host a dinner or a dessert time and invite people from these circles to come and listen, ask questions, and learn about what God is doing across the world and develop relationships with real, in the flesh, human missionaries. We are normal people, not superheroes, nor are we just faces on a prayer card. We have been able to have dinners with friends and times of sharing with small groups, and they have been great for the soul. It has been so heart warming to us to be able to share with a small group of people, develop relationships, and answer their questions about our time reaching the unreached.
Also, one area of being a missionary that can be stressful, frustrating, or uncomfortable is fund raising. Some missionaries are funded by their sending organization or denomination. However, many missionaries raise their own support. As you can imagine, asking for money can be uncomfortable, and it can be stressful when it looks like the funds might not come in. It takes a lot of faith to trust that God will come through when it looks impossible to our human eyes. Leveraging your resources and hosting these dinner or dessert times will provide missionaries access to others who may be interested in partnering with them financially to reach the unreached.
That brings us to our next resource you have that you can leverage, your finances. Looking at the figures, very little of Christian giving is allocated to reaching the unreached. If you are not called to go, I would say you should consider yourself called to send. We are all called to play our part in the the great commission, and yes, while there are people struggling to make ends meet, I would probably say that most people have some expendable income. I encourage you to invest in something with eternal returns by PARTNERING financially with a missionary. Yes, I say partnering, not supporting, because by giving financially to a missionary, you are playing an important part in reaching the unreached. It takes a missionary to say yes to God and go, but it also takes many more back home to get them there and sustain them there. I know it sounds self-serving writing this because I am a missionary, and I am raising support. But honestly, we just want you to get involved in some way. If you want to partner with us, awesome! We would love to have you on our team! However, if God is placing another missionary, country, or people group on your heart and you want to support them, I say go for it! I just encourage you to find some way that you can leverage your finances for Kingdom work amongst the unreached.
Lastly, you can leverage your talents. God has created you uniquely, giving you gifts, knowledge, and experiences. Are you called to leverage your gifts and skills in the sharing of the Gospel with the unreached? Honestly, it seems just about anything can be used on the mission field. We have seen this in our organization, AIM. For example, we have even seen recruiting for single men needed to simply sit in coffee shops and develop relationships with others so that they can share Christ! We’ve seen opportunities for surfers, fisherman, nurses, doctors, pastors, and we even had a sniper from the SWAT team serve with us last term. One thing we learned this last term is that when you say yes to God, He will use all of you, even in ways you didn’t know possible. He will take you out of the box you have put yourself in. He will unlock and reveal passions and gifts that you did not know you even had and use those for His glory! The question we hear people ask is, “Am I called to go?”. I think the more important question is, “Am I called to stay?”. The truth is not everyone IS called to go, but I think the important thing is to know that you are where God has called you to be and that you are reaching those around you.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus is with the 11 remaining disciples and gives them this commandment, the Great Commission:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The truth is, this is a commandment to all of us. Wherever we are, God is calling us to make disciples of all nations. You can do this by being a missionary where you are at, but you can also participate in making disciples of ALL nations. If God is stirring you to go, then by all means start taking that walk of faith! If God is calling you to stay, then begin a partnership with a missionary who has been called to go.
Just before Christ left the earth, he gathered with his disciples and said this to them before he ascended into heaven.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
This is another commandment given to the disciples regarding spreading the truth about Jesus. What is interesting to me here is that the same commandment is given to all of them: That they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. He did not divvy the responsibilities out. He did not say, “Peter and James you have Jerusalem. John and Andrew you have Judea. Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew you have Samaria. Last but not least, James, Thaddaeus, and Simon, you get the ends of the Earth.” The truth is that this commandment, this assignment was given as a shared responsibility to all the disciples of Christ. We may not be one of the 12 disciples of Christ, but as true followers of him we are disciples of Christ and therefore have a shared responsibility of seeing the Gospel spread to all nations, all peoples, so that all may have an opportunity to respond to the Gospel and find freedom in Christ.
So, what are you going to do?