The Package

I am so tired

I just miss my friends from back home

Does God even know that I am here?

I just want to know that God loves me….

…these are among some of the things that flowed from my heart and out of my mouth as I spoke with a dear friend on FaceTime. This friend has seen me at my best and prayed with me through my worst. I had kept these struggles to myself for several weeks because in my eyes a missionary shouldn’t struggle with the basics of belonging to Christ. But I was struggling and darkness seemed to be closing in on me. It has been a challenging time since we stepped foot in another country. I know what the Word says about considering it all joy when we suffer, but it wasn’t until I lived the suffering that I understood the challenging message of that scripture.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~James 1:2-4

Most everything I do here is a fight. I fight my children to sit in the stroller. I fight the bus drivers to let us on. I fight other passengers to make it on the already crowded trains, fearing that one of my children might get separated from me as the doors abruptly close. I fight for the elevator at the train station. I fight sticker shock as I grocery shop. I fight to carry my groceries home….sometimes in the rain. I fight to shelter my kids in a provocative city. I fight sore feet from walking and I fight being an introvert as I start conversations with strangers. I fight darkness as I choose to cling to Light. I fight despair as I choose to hope. I fight loneliness as I miss my friends from back home. I fight jealousy as I see my friends’ children go to their first day of school and realize my oldest is missing his first day of Kindergarten. I fight Satan for the souls of the lost. I fight weariness as I get up before sunrise to talk to Jesus. I fight anger, yes anger, as I see all the hard about my life and know God could make it easier. I fight rebellion as I am tempted to believe I am unloved.

I gave up everything to follow Jesus. I long to be surrounded by my precious Truth speaking sisters from back home and sometimes I miss my husband’s former salary. Several weeks ago, when this culture shocked soul had truly had enough and life just seemed to be erupting like a volcano, insecurity plagued my forgetful heart and this very much loved daughter of God forgot who she was. I was upset that God didn’t make things go smoothly everyday and I was mad that He didn’t seem to protect me from little things that sprinkled salt in my wounds. I had gotten to the point where I figured that if I gave up my entire life – my possessions, my house, my husband’s job, my best friends, family, my dreams – then somehow God owed it to me to let everything go just the way I wanted it to.

My forgetful heart had failed to remember just how loved I am by God and what I saw as a wealth of unmet emotional needs consumed my thoughts. My wants masqueraded around as needs as the stress of recently moving to a new culture shocked me to the core. Yes, I still shared about Jesus to those I met everyday, but deep down was a pain that was creating this self centered desire to know I was loved….and loved just the way that I think love should look.

One day my phone got a text and it was that same dear friend telling me she had mailed me a package! I was so excited to receive it and thought that as soon as I got it, I would be happy. It showed me she loves me and it started to be all I could think about. As the days rolled by and I tracked the package online, I noticed one afternoon that the status of the package said “delivered.” I was so confused because when we got home that day from looking for opportunities and sharing about Jesus, there was no package in front of our apartment door. We called the manager of our complex, the post office, and we had my friend call the post office too. Over the next week, we did everything we could think of to discover where my package had gone, but had absolutely no luck finding it. The post office told us there was nothing they could do. I left a note for the postman and I prayed desperately that God would show me where it was. As the days went by, my hope faded and we started to come to terms with the fact that it was either delivered to the wrong apartment or it was stolen from in front of our door.

I was mad. Again my angry prayers told God that I had given up everything for Him and the least He could do was allow me to get a package that would encourage me to keep going. My friends from training were getting packages and my kids were getting packages, but why did mine get taken away? Why this one? Why would God withhold something He knows I would love.

And that’s when my friend and I had that conversation. It was a Monday. I told her I just don’t think God loves me. The next morning, I woke up sick. God’s grace disguised as a cold kept me in bed as my husband and children left for class. I laid in bed and the Holy Spirit tugged at my hurting heart. As I opened my Bible, I found myself in Deuteronomy….

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking.” ~Deuteronomy 8:2-8

As I read the scripture which resonated so deeply within, my heart broke with conviction. “Godly sorrow brings repentance” 2 Corinthians 7:10. I laid on my pillow and wept. The Lord has led me to this city which feels like a wilderness. I feel lost and alone at times and it’s very different than I am used to. And with each difficult experience, He is humbling me by not only showing me that I can not do this on my own, but that so much of my heart clings to my desires for comfort. He is testing me and shattering my illusion of self-sufficiency and self-centerdness. And why does He do this? To prove my character and to find out whether or not I will choose to persevere and obey his commands – to see if I will choose to obey the call He has placed on my life.

“…but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” ~Romans 5:3-5

This humbling that has taken place has been beautifully painful. It has been joyful sorrow. There were days that he let me go hungry for Him. I know He promises to never leave me, but at times He seemed to not be near. But this practice of seeking him in the midst of suffering and of learning to endure and obey even on days that my heart is weary and heavy has been the manna He has fed me with. Manna literally means “what is it?” There are days that I can’t understand the ways He chooses to teach and mold this heart that is His. Some days I just want to look at Him and say I don’t understand. What is it? What are you doing? What is this manna you have chosen to give me? But on those days of testing in the wilderness, I am learning to speak the Word of God. To tell myself over and over that God’s love never fails. His love will never fail me. Many things in life feel like they have failed me, but God’s love will never abandon or reject me and will never leave me.

“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” ~Psalm 13:5

“Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.” ~Psalm 31:21

“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” ~Psalm 33:22

“No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first.” ~Oswald Chambers

“Throughout life, we will lose to death or changing circumstances people who really loved us. As dear and as rich as their love was, it was not unfailing. It moved. It died. It changed. It left wonderful memories….but it left a hole. Only God’s love never fails.” ~Beth Moore, Living Free

The Lord was challenging me to see His discipline as a way to mature my faith to where nothing would be lacking. As His daughter, He disciplines me from a heart of unfailing love, and while the discipline is painful at the time, it yields to a peaceful harvest of right living…

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” ~Hebrews 12:11

Several more days went by and as I wrestled and prayed and read the Word, the Lord convinced my heart that He truly does love me. Because of my husband’s encouragement, I started thanking God for all the good I can see in my life. After several days of focusing on giving thanks in all circumstances and repeating to myself the Truth that His love never fails, my entire perspective changed.

It was a Monday. One week exactly after I stared at my computer screen and told the friend whose package had yet to be found that I just wanted to know that God loved me. I was giving my daughters a bath when I hear my son yell from the living room….

“There is some lady at the door!”

As I carried a freshly bathed baby wrapped up in a warm towel to the front door, I could not believe my eyes! It was a Muslim woman from Afghanistan. She gave me some confusing apology and reason why she had my package and then returned it!!! I WAS SHOCKED! It was completely opened, even down to the letter inside, but it was all there! My son who had told me earlier in the day that he had been praying that God would help me find my package for 2 weeks now, was the precious one that the Lord allowed to open the door to receive the package! I took the opportunity to tell the Muslim woman how we had been praying and how God had answered our prayers! My son was changed because of this package. He saw the wonders of God as the package that we had been told would never be found ended up at our front door!

Whether or not she stole it just doesn’t matter. I truly believe the Lord, in His sovereignty and out of love, withheld something that I thought would fill the longing in my heart that only Jesus could satisfy. It wasn’t until the Lord had humbled and tested and infused a confident hope in His unfailing Love in my heart that He gave me a gift that I could enjoy, but not depend upon to sustain me. He is bringing my wilderness heart into a good land that is plentiful and where nothing is lacking. In Jesus I am complete. Friends or no friends, house or no house, mean bus driver or nice bus driver, in times of little and in times of plenty – God is maturing me so that I will only desire Him and His glory. There is no act more beautiful than the Father’s loving restraint in order to deepen our faith and increase our joy. May we wait on the Lord with confident hope and unwavering trust…His ways are perfect.

“The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of Him forever.” ~John Piper

“Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us – or magnifies him- more.” ~John Piper

“No one is more pleasurable to be around than a person who has her cup filled with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only One who is never overwhelmed by the depth and length of our need. Imagine how different our days would be if we had our cups filled by Christ first thing in the morning. During the course of the day, anything else anyone is able to offer could just be the overflow of an already full cup. This person will never lack company or affection because she draws daily from the well of unfailing love. This blessed of all believers will know from experience what the apostle Paul meant in Colossians 2:10, ‘You are complete in Him.'” ~Beth Moore, Living Free

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” ~Proverbs 3:3-6

Write this on the tablet of your heart: His love never fails.