When we first landed overseas…
I had hoped our family would live with our co-workers for only two weeks.
I had hoped my kids would find deep friendships that would span cultures.
I had hoped there would be a breakthrough in the legalism that strangled the local church.
I had hoped His new birth would burst forth in many.
I had even hoped for a grand sense of fulfillment as I walked the obedience path.
When I look back to those years living overseas, I see that the hopes that once danced in my mind started to spin more and more slowly until they drooped, slumped, and eventually vanished from view.
Were those hopes (and yes, prayers) somehow wrong, unrealistic, or manifested from selfish desires? Hmm, maybe. I do know His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9), and the following verses give me a clue as to those higher ways.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 reads:
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
As I read these verses and look back on life in our adopted home, I’m able to see those days with a broader focus. The answers to some of my specific prayers have never been obvious, but a different dance stirs as I ask myself the following questions formed through the verses of Jeremiah.
During those years, was my hope in God or man?
Did I miss seeing good in the midst of the desert?
Did my roots of faith spread deeper into the riches of His river?
Had anxiety hounded me?
Did my life exhibit His fruit?
With this reflection, I see from His word how clearly He blessed me. For example, I now understand that during those years in the “desert” He allowed me to see His goodness through intentional and daily praise. He also forced my faith-roots down into Him when the distractions I had used to pacify my heart in the past weren’t available. In addition, those years of only slight movement of others towards God honed me toward prayer for their souls. Through this effort, I found a certainty that it wasn’t my work that brought their salvation, and this relieved some of my anxiety as a global worker! God even guided me to relax my grip on trusting in man, as I had often based my worth on man’s opinion.
No, every prayer was not obviously answered during those years of work. I see now, however, that He was directing me toward true hope. And guess what? That hope is still dancing in and around me today!
Looking at these verses in Jeremiah, what would be a question you could ask yourself that will help you see your heart from God’s perspective?