Fighting for Joy: It Continues (Update Part 2)

“It’s a miracle I’m here,” I thought as I stood worshipping to hymns amongst 400 fellow missionaries during STINT briefing in Chicago a few weeks ago. These 400 missionaries, or STINTers (Short-term International), are going to 40 countries on 6 continents.

It’s really a miracle that I’m going to Slovenia. These words rang through my mind repeatedly throughout briefing, a 6-day conference through Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) that prepares STINTers for a year overseas sharing the Gospel and building student lead movements (SLM) on college campuses. The conference was such a wonderful experience for me because I had the opportunity to hear from regional and national staff with Cru about what this next year overseas will look like. I met all of my teammates for the first time (pictured below), and I spent time with other STINTers going to Eastern Europe and Russia, learning about the history and spiritual background of our region, as well as ways to adapt to the culture. To end the conference, we had a night of Commissioning, where we listened to wisdom from Cru President Steve Douglass. That night, we were introduced by region, given encouragement from Scripture, and then prayed for “Korean style” (everyone prays out loud at the same time).

While our region stood in front of the crowd of fellow missionaries, our director Scott Matthews told us to look at our feet. He proceeded to read Romans 10:13-15, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” I can’t imagine a better way to be sent to Slovenia!

Outdoor STINT Photo

From left: Anna, Katie, Melissa, John, Mike, Hilary, Andrew, and myself

But why was it a miracle, you ask? Three years ago, I began to experience pretty significant health issues that spilled over into every area of my life. I suffered with chronic fatigue and infections, insomnia, depression, no energy, and multiple other symptoms. But last fall, the Lord provided a doctor who was finally able to give a proper diagnosis (lead and mercury toxicity), as well as a detailed treatment plan. In January, I started an intense detox process through medication, supplements, and a strict organic diet. When I began treatment, I had no idea if I’d be able to leave the U.S or even how long the healing process would be.

Knowing that God had given me the desire to share the good news of life and reconciliation through Jesus, I decided to step out in faith and apply to spend a year in Ljubljana, Slovenia, helping to raise up a movement on the college campus there. Though I was accepted to STINT, I began to have doubts. How will I continue on my diet in Slovenia? How will I get bloodwork done? What if I don’t get better? What if I’m a liability to my team?

The same day the doubts started, my Bible reading plan took me to Luke 12. In verses 22-26, Jesus says to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Through that, God showed me that I had an incorrect view of His goodness and His provision. And this summer, I’m so thankful that He has been correcting that in my heart. In these past few months, God has provided physical healing. Though I’m not completely healed yet, Slovenia is probably one of the best places for my health to be restored because I have access to organic and local high-quality food. (I know the Lord worked that one out for me!) And He has provided all of my financial support, including extra funds to cover costs for my diet, all to be able to share the Gospel in Slovenia! Praise Him for His abundant blessing!

This year, like I said in the previous post, I had an incorrect view of God’s goodness and favor toward me. But the Lord has showed me this summer that He enjoys giving good gifts to those who are His.

In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

And the thing is, I did nothing to deserve these gifts. Nothing. Often, I think if I work hard enough or do enough good things that God will give me what I want. But that’s a lie. God doesn’t bless me or give me good gifts because I do things for Him. He gives me good gifts because I am in Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He took on God’s just wrath (the wrath that I deserve for my sin), and in exchange, He gave me His righteousness (a right legal standing before God) and God’s infinite favor. This is propitiation according to Systematic Theology, “A sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.”

Romans 3:21-25 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

What amazing words! I have God’s favor because of Jesus. And He wants to give me good gifts! I knew this truth before, but this summer, I really began to believe it true for myself.

I can’t wait to share this truth and the truth of life through Jesus with students in Slovenia! It’s hard to believe I’ll be there on Friday! I’m so thankful that the desire God planted in my heart my freshman year of college is finally coming to fruition — spending a year overseas sharing the Gospel.  I’m sure the Lord has so much to teach me this year, and I can’t wait to share that with you.

Thanks for continuing on this journey with me!

Fighting for Joy: His Goodness

It’s been a few weeks since I had the appointment with my doctor about how my body is reacting to the new diet and supplement regimen. The day of the appointment, I was scared, and to be honest, I was having a hard time trusting in God’s goodness. I was afraid that my body wasn’t responding. Over and over, my thoughts echoed lies. Sure, God is good, so why is He not being good to me? Why does my sanctification involve so much pain, exhaustion, trial, and sadness? The Lord could change my heart at His command, so why do I have to go through this? Things just don’t seem fair. My thoughts even went so far as, God doesn’t want to heal me because He wants me to stay in this spot. He wants to teach me; He wants to put me in the pressure cooker to see how I stand up.

After thinking on these thoughts for a while, God nudged me to pray. To pray that I would see His goodness despite the results of my blood work. To pray that my heart would be changed, that my attitude would change. That I would instead run to the Lord for comfort instead of running and hiding from Him in fear. Even to pray again for healing.

And what a distorted view of God I have! It’s something that I constantly have to fight for, to see His goodness. I so often trust in His sovereignty; however, seeing His sovereignty without His goodness is disastrous. (So is the other way around.) Seeing just His sovereignty causes us to think that He’s just an angry tyrant and we are His puppets. Seeing just His goodness causes us to think that He’s a senile grandfather who spoils His grandkids. But, He’s neither of those images. He is sovereign and He is good.

As always, the Lord didn’t allow my thoughts to continue down this dangerous path. He gently reminded me of what is true about Him. And as I think about it now, I’m brought to tears because I’m confident that He was fighting for me in those moments. If He didn’t care, my thoughts would’ve continued. The Lord reminded me that He is good despite my circumstances, that no matter what happens to me, I am alive because of Christ. And for that alone, I know He is good.

Ephesians 2:3-10 says, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

When I was disobedient and living for myself and the world, God made me alive in Christ through Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’m alive, not because of anything I did, but because the Lord was (and still is) gracious toward me. And because I’ve been made alive, I am a daughter of God. Because of this, God promises to give me good gifts, even when I can’t see it or when I don’t see them as gifts. This trial is a gift, and I constantly need to remember that.

In the end, the Lord answered multiple prayers that day, and He continues to answer these prayers. He showed me His goodness despite my circumstances. He allowed me to see joy because of Jesus. He changed my attitude and heart. And, as an added bonus, He started to heal me. Not only am I seeing changes in my energy level, but I also saw a change in the blood work. My body is responding, praise the Lord! I still have a long road ahead, but I know I’m getting better. Most importantly though, I’m seeing and experiencing the Gospel more than I ever would have without this process.

(And every time I hear this song, I am reminded of God’s goodness.)

My constant prayer is that God would be glorified in this and that others will see His Gospel through this. Though I often don’t know what God is doing, I’m thankful that He has revealed some of His glory to me through Jesus and what Jesus has accomplished for me. With that, I leave you with part of a Psalm I was reading today, Psalm 27. (I encourage you to read it all, because it’s so good.)

Psalm 27