“Only Christ himself, who slept in the boat in the storm and then spoke calm to the wind and waves, can stand beside us when we are in a panic and say to us, Peace. It will not be explainable. It transcends human understanding. And there is nothing else like it in the whole wide world.”
The smell of fresh vomit punctured the stale air within the airplane cabin as a mother sitting diagonally from us wiped the mouth of her child. The mother was dressed in beautifully conservative clothes, donning a head scarf that told me she was Central Asian – and also the very people group that we seek out on His behalf. Her daughter was terrified, and although the mother attempted to hold herself together, the turbulence induced fear suddenly manifested itself as she came undone.
“Ali!” she panted and screamed as she succumbed to sheer terror.
“Jesus” my heart whispered as I felt the plane dip and my stomach flutter.
She panicked. And it was hard for me to watch.
Panic shot through her body and could be seen in her tautly stretched fingers that trembled as her husband, Ali, cradled her in his arms and was guiding her through the motions of drinking water from a bottle.
My eyes somewhat frantically surveyed our surroundings. Diagonally was the panic-stricken mother who only moments before had exchanged small talk and glances from across the aisle with us. In front of them was another Central Asian man. He was strong and distinguished and the wrinkles that adorned his face told me that much life had been lived. But this man with the strong exterior wiped tears from his eyes as our plane dipped and shook and felt anything but stable.
I have never feared flying.
That all changed during this flight where there was no warning from the captain and no flight attendants in sight. The unforeseen turbulence was the scariest and most prolonged I have ever experienced.
All around us were Central Asians from our people group and we were all on a flight headed from Central Asia to Europe, where we now live. I was on a trip with 3 other American women and we had all just spent the week in Turkey with the other women who are also ministering throughout Central Asia. We were given the rare gift of a retreat for women in our organization who are working in some of the darkest and scariest corners on planet earth. For almost a week I shared tears, confessed struggles, lifted up in prayer, encouraged, worshiped with, and learned from other women seeking to save that which is lost. The women at the retreat came from many countries spanning from Russian, down through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, among others. The life of a sister who recently lost her life was given thanks for, and a sense of sisterhood was strengthened.
With fresh hope and expanded vision for the task at hand, I sat next to other women on the plane as we suddenly saw the peace that passes all understanding in action.
While hopeless fear caused panic in the Central Asians around us, Hope-full prayers laid fear at the throne of Mercy, and worship was created. Our hearts rested in Christ and the beautifully soft voice of one of my friends sang praises that overflowed from her heart sustained. With each dip, my arm grabbed my friend’s and with the tension being high and the unknown before us, hope burned bright in our hearts and the Name above all other Names could be heard in whispered prayers.
Peace came and it sustained.
And although I felt peace, I was still taken aback by the panic that my eyes beheld. It startled me. It shocked me to the core. I am no different than the Central Asians – you see, I still felt fear, for I am human, but I knew Who to cry out to. I felt panic arise but I felt Peace Himself subdue it as being very enemy in pursuit of my Christ-centered calm. I had an unexplainable presence of Christ in me and my eyes saw an indescribable fear in them.
There was a stark contrast.
We were on the same planet, in the same moment in time, yet citizens of two very different Kingdoms.
They were truly scared for their lives.
And this is why we must not give up and go home.
They sat in darkness and we sat in Light. How will they know if we give up and go home?
As their hearts were lost without a place to hide, fearing the instability of the plane’s wings, our hearts were abiding safely under the wings of the Most High. As their fears of what-if caused trembling panic, our submission to His known truths became the fortress that guarded our hearts and protected our hope.
Jesus was our refuge. In Him do we trust. His faithfulness is our shield. In Him we abide – we dwell.
Jesus is our refuge.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
~Psalm 91:1-3, 4
“Psalm 91. This tender and intimate psalm describes the confidence that the believer may have through all manner of dangers and challenges. “
Ps. 91:1–2 God Is My Refuge. The opening section sets out the basic theme of the whole psalm: the Lord is a secure defense for those who take refuge in him. Several terms for security appear: shelter (that hides one from danger), shadow (e.g., of the wings, v. 4; cf. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7), refuge (a place of security), and fortress (protecting one from attack). The titles of God support this idea: Most High (Hb. ‘elyon, high above every other power) and Almighty. The term my God, in whom I trust displays the utter reliance that is the ideal of biblical faith. The purpose of this psalm is to instill greater faith in God’s people, and the first section helps the singers to feel that God is trustworthy.
Ps. 91:1 God is our ultimate dwelling place and protection, prefiguring Christ as dwelling place and protection (John 1:14; 10:27–30).” -ESV Study Bible note
“God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” ~Psalm 46:1, Amplified“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God and made Him my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” ~Psalm 73:28, Amplified
We exited the plane and watched as one woman who had gotten to hear that Jesus had saved us stopped and braced herself against the wall, holding her heart as if she were still recovering from her panic in the sky.
My heart broke.
This life is one of constant joyful sorrow. Sorrow for the lostness – yet so much joy that God is at work and is using His people mightily!
I praised the Lord for allowing me to go through somewhat of a crisis with the people group He has me working with. I got to see past their exteriors and the realness of their hopelessness which is something I don’t think I can ever forget. The Lord continues to use life experiences as the classroom where He is training me and making me useful for the Kingdom – where He is equipping me for my calling.
“My dear friend, when grief presses you to the dust, worship there! Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. When you are bowed down beneath a heavy burden of sorrow, worship and adore God there. In full surrender to His divine will, say with Joy ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’ The worship sweetens sorrow and takes away its sting” ~Spurgeon
I’ll leave you with a recording I made of the voices of my fellow sisters in Christ who are serving in Central Asia. These voices are the women who are on the front lines, battling for souls. These women have stories of sorrow, loss, joy, and seeing miracles. Their hearts are treasures and I am so blessed to have had the chance to worship alongside them for a week at a retreat! Please pray over these women – their marriages; their children; their relationships with nationals; their language ability; and that they would know that they are never alone.
May He be glorified.