God has been doing some great things here this past week, and has really encouraged Ben and I in many ways. But the reality is that the past month has been a difficult one for me personally. It's been a month of questions: what is our purpose here; what is my purpose here, my role in ministry; why did God send us here alone; can I really live here for 2 years? It seemed as though the peace I had had vanished, and in its place was discouragement, loneliness, inner turmoil and a real lack of joy!
No, those questions haven't all been answered for me, and no, I don't suddenly feel at home and totally excited about being here, but God spoke TRUTH to my heart the other day. I was reading in Philippians, and the Lord gently rebuked me through the truth of His word. As I read the passage below I sensed the Lord asking me a question: "Katie, do you really love me? Are you obeying my commands here? Are you being a doer of My Word, or just a hearer?"
Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
I've read these verses so many times in the past, but they've always been "feel good" verses in a sense--all about joy and not being anxious and God's peace... But the truth that the Lord spoke to my heart the other day was this: these are commands! I am commanded to REJOICE in the Lord. I am commanded to be GENTLE with my children, with my words... I am commanded to not be anxious, but to seek the Lord with thankfulness. So many times throughout the day I am giving commands to my kids, and I discipline them over and over again for not listening and obeying. Well, I have been that child--hearing what God has said, but not thinking He was really serious about it--thinking it was just a "suggestion".
The reality for me right now is that I don't always "feel" joyful. But the command here is to "Rejoice in the Lord", not to rejoice in my circumstances. Life may be hard, and I may still be lonely or frustrated by the language barrier, but my joy is to be grounded in Jesus! And in the midst of the questions and uncertainties and struggles, am I bringing to the Lord my heart and concerns with thankfulness for what He is doing? The promise at the end of these verses is that the "peace of God" will guard my heart and mind. I've been anxious, I've been discontent, I've been lacking in joy--perhaps my lack of peace over the past month is a result of my failure to obey God's commands and put His Word into practice.
James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."