Monday, 30 April 2012

Enduring Hardship

One of the most exciting things about this season is how God is growing our faith in ways that might not have been possible had we never left Houston.  Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is in regards to hardship.  It’s humbling to admit now, but part of me felt like God owed us in this transition — that we had taken a huge leap of faith, so He better not let us down (and that certainly meant hardship would not be involved!)

Initially, I felt God wasn’t doing a very good job holding up His end of the bargain.  It felt like we had leaped, only to be left free falling without a parachute.  Every aspect of life was hard.  We were in total isolation in a foreign city, forced to adapt to the realities and frustrations of life in a third world country.  The people were crazy.  The driving was crazier.  Simple survival was the best we could hope for.  To be honest, I’m not sure what exactly I expected:  A fairytale transition where every Jamaican I met begged me to be their friend?  A city identical to Houston, only nestled in a Caribbean paradise?  A massive migration of the roaches and mosquitoes to another island upon my arrival?

Looking back it seems so silly.  But it was during my quiet time one morning that God taught me a HUGE lesson.  I was frustrated by all the frustrations and wanted answers.  And God, in His abundant mercy, graciously overlooked my faithless, feeble spirit and revealed how He wanted to use this time to grow my faith and mature my perspective.   He led me to the account of the hardships that Apostle Paul encountered during his lifetime of service.  In brief:

Paul was imprisoned, flogged severely, exposed to death again and again, received 40 lashes minus one (It was assumed that 40 lashes would kill someone), beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, spent nights in the open sea, went without sleep, knew hunger, thirst and nakedness as if they were dear friends, was in danger in the city, in the country and at sea—which which basically means everywhere, and the list goes on (see 2 Corinthians 11).

I read these verses and felt an overwhelming sense of conviction: I don’t have a CLUE about hardship.  My measly complaints paled in comparison to Paul’s experiences, and pale in comparison to so many suffering around the world today.  God has been so good—not only in this season, but throughout our entire lives.  He has never, ever failed us.  He promises to use every circumstance, no matter how difficult, painful or disappointing, for our own good (Romans 8:28).  A comforting promise, if we would only believe!

Paul knew great hardship.  But he also knew great contentment.   And he shared his secret with us: Contentment isn’t about your circumstances.  It’s not what you have or have-not.  It’s about the condition of your heart.  It’s choosing to trust no matter what chaos surrounds you.  It’s standing firm in your faith instead of faltering when the going gets rough.  Contentment comes through enduring hardship, whatever that may look like in your life, and choosing faith over fear.  It means believing God’s promise that we can do ALL things through Him who gives us strength (Phil 4:12).

So stand firm, dear friend.  No matter what you’re enduring, know that God is faithful and that He is using your situation for good.  That we can do ALL things (not some things, small things, most things but ALL things) with His great and mighty strength.  Now that’s certainly something to celebrate!  

With Love,

Kevin & Cass

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