The camp leaders (Ukrainian, Polish & American) gather at 7:30 for devotions before our camp day begins. I got to lead them this morning. All day yesterday I was praying for God to lead me to what He would have me share because I honestly had no idea what that was going to be. Several people have shared this week their personal stories of how they struggled when God’s answer to their prayers came in a way they didn’t understand or expect, or when they had to wait so long for it. That kept coming back to my mind as well as the fact that many missionaries (short term or longer) struggle at some point with doubts about their presence, purpose, and effectiveness. I went to Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” As I read the surrounding verses, I was blown away by the perfect connection to our garden theme and our teachings this week on the Fruit of the Spirit. My sweet friend Sasha said to include our personal stories, even though I’ve shared them before. Because I believe what I shared about God having a purpose much bigger and farther reaching than we would ever think, I’ll share the thoughts here too. Maybe there is something here that will encourage you.
Yesterday was our son Ethan’s birthday. And as we celebrated the blessing of having him in our lives, I couldn’t help but think about the circumstances leading up to his birth. Ben and I aren’t as crazy as some of you with your families of 5, 6, 7 kids. We had kinda thought we would have two. But many of you know that our second child, our daughter Grace, passed away at birth. There is a lot more to that story, of course. But sometimes when I look at Ethan I wonder if we would have him in our lives if Grace had lived. I don’t know why we had to go through that tragedy, but I know God has brought so much good from it. Sometimes the plans we make for our lives and what God has in mind are not the same. I think it is because it isn’t really about us at all. It’s about a much bigger picture.
There’s another example from my life… actually, from my parents before me. When my mom and dad were dating, my mom had an opportunity to use her medical training on the mission field by moving to Zimbabwe to help start a new medical clinic, and at that same time, my dad asked her to marry him. There were several circumstances that meant that she had to choose between the two. You might assume she would choose the mission field, that choosing to marry my dad might seem like she must be ignoring God’s calling on her life. But she prayed and prayed about the decision, as was sure that she was making the right choice when she accepted the proposal. 45 years later, she was able to visit that exact medical clinic, which is still successful, and meet the people God had called there. And in that time, God has used her and my dad to minister to hundreds of college kids for several decades. They also raised my brother and I. We both have wonderful God-following spouses, who we partner with in multiple aspects of ministry and mission work, including our attempts to raise the next generation to follow and serve God. So my Mom obeyed what she felt God was telling her, even when it didn’t seem to make sense, and that one decision has had a ripple effect that has resulted in a much bigger spreading of the gospel in several countries.
I want to read Isa 55:6-13
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the LORD.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.’
God’s ways, His thoughts, are so much greater than our human minds can understand. He is a master gardner. He sends out His Word like rain and it will not return empty. It will produce joy and peace, and all the other Fruit of the Spirit we are learning about this week.
You may have moments when you wonder why God brought you here, what your role is, or if there is anything you are accomplishing for the Kingdom. Trust the God who brought you to this place, time and purpose. Even if you never get to see the fruit yourself, He is is growing a garden beyond your imagination and you get to plant some seeds.