I remember when God called me to come live in Thailand for a season. I threw a bit of a fit, confused and even frustrated with God because it felt like He was leading me in the opposite direction of where He told me we would be going. But I knew that to obey would be better then to pursue what I desired or felt was best.
A couple of months ago I received a very sincere and generous compliment from a visiting Russian missionary regarding my ability to learn Thai and to adapt in such a short amount of time. We had done part of our Go To Nations training together but hadn’t seen each other in over 2 years. Many people have complimented me on my language proficiency but when he said it it rang in my heart.
As I thought about his words later I suddenly realized how much I had come to love the Thai people with the love of the Father. I started crying as I realized it would be hard to let go of what God has given me here. It has certainly been a hard season, but there has been SO. MUCH. GRACE. Grace to learn the language, grace to build relationships, grace for leadership, grace to start things, grace to grow, grace to be full of joy in the trials and patience in the waiting. Even though I had some of the hardest times in the past couple years, I’ve also had the best times.
However, I’ve also seen people who haven’t thrived. People who never made it to the field, or had to go home early. People who have had extreme culture shock and have struggled with the language. People who have battled sickness and spiritual attack around every corner. People who have had to fight every day for their calling and destiny in this nation. It’s not a judgement on them, these are people who are following and obeying God!
But I was struck with the question: why me?
Why has the language come easy to me when I don’t have long term plans to use it? Why do I feel so at home when I didn’t even want to be in this nation in the first place? Why did I so easily come to love the people when I didn’t think God was necessarily “calling me” to them?
And God answered.
He said, “You obediently followed me into the desert, so I made your desert season into your gift.”
Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, I’m sure I’ll have many seasons that feel more like a battle then a blessing, but God showed me through this season that He just loves to bless His children. That He really does have something great in mind for every season, even the ones that look like a wilderness.
In Genesis 26 Isaac goes and re-digs the wells that Abraham dug many years before. Then he starts to dig wells of his own, but each time he found a well that was a great source of water, the people of the land would fight him and take over the well. Until he came to a “broad place”. They dug a well there and no one fought over it. He said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be prosperous in the land.” (Genesis 26:22)
I think of the broad place like a wilderness. Isaac had to get out to the wilderness to establish a well, a deep connection to living water, that wouldn’t be stolen from him. The place where no one else wanted to go, THERE was his blessing.
Seasons aren’t always what we expect them to be. We might be expecting hardship and trial and instead walk in joy and ease. Or we might expect a season of victory and life, but experience hardship and suffering instead. But there’s one thing we can stand on and lean into: in every season our God is full of grace.
He’s the one who graciously leads us into the green pastures and He’s the one who graciously walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.