It was March 2016 – four years ago. We were in a foreign country, surrounded by people who spoke a different language. We weren’t allowed to go back to the US. We were afraid, but also at peace. We knew that even if the worst things imaginable might happen, God was faithful. The most important things were to continue to be thankful for the blessings we did have, to give God the burdens we couldn’t carry in prayer, and to trust one day at a time until something could change.
Days went by. Weeks went by. Three of our children were on the other side of the world. After a 4-year process filled with prayers and tears, we were finally bringing our youngest daughter home from the Democratic Republic of Congo. But in those moments, we were being held in limbo by Congolese officials while they decided when we could go home with her. We don’t know if they were trying to get more money, or if the file was literally sitting on a pile on someone’s desk while they focused on other matters. Time passed. We missed Easter.
As a pastor – I remember the one time I’ve missed the traditional Easter celebration vividly. We opened the window and heard singing a few blocks away. It wasn’t safe for us to leave the building we stayed in. We gave thanks for our blessings. We gave our daughter a chocolate bunny, which she immediately was grossed out by, and she begged for a can of tuna. Of course – we gave her tuna. We washed laundry in the bathtub. We danced around the living room and blew bubbles from the balcony. We taught her that even though daddy was a man – he could be loving and gentle. We video-chatted with loved ones back home and cried a bit – confessing that it was hard to trust God with such unknowns.
Four years later, there are some similarities – but VERY important differences. We are in a foreign country, surrounded by people who speak a different language (that we’re learning!). We aren’t sure the next time we’ll be able to go to the US, though we pray and trust a visit will still happen later this year. But we have all four of our children with us. We have an apartment that has become home – not just a small hotel room. We have friends and church family here – who are all staying connected and encouraging/praying for each other, even while apart.
You’ve probably experienced unknowns in your past as well – and truth of Lent is: Every new moment was a previous unknown. We spend most of our lives pretending we have “knowns”, but if our security is found in “knowing”, it is a false fruit of a tree we’re asked not to eat from. Our peace must come from the only unchanging “known” – God who has revealed His Love in Jesus Christ, and given us His Spirit.
I do not believe God caused these moments of hardship globally. But they can certainly be used by God for redemptive purposes when offered back to Him. May we do so, humbly…