I had been in the Middle East for just five months when a global pandemic interrupted all of my barely established rhythms and routines. Language lessons cancelled, activities restricted, gatherings of any kind prohibited, and now fully cut off from the people I came to share Jesus with. I had been on the ground just long enough to find a place to live, complete necessary paperwork, obtain a residence visa, and get a driver’s licence. But I had only just begun forming relationships, none deep enough to withstand social distancing and online communication. I found myself asking, “What am I doing here?”
Moving to the Middle East alone felt like a hard yes, and there have been countless changes in plans along the way. Yet this is where I sensed Him calling, so I went. Five months in, when nothing looked the way I thought it should, I began arguing.
“Jesus, I said yes to going to the Middle East. I gave up a good job, my cozy apartment and all that filled it. I gave up living close to my friends while their kids grow up. I’m not there to help my family. I left a ministry role I loved. I gave up familiarity and comfort in hopes these people could have access to You. Now I can’t even go outside. How am I supposed to live here? What do you want from me?”
As I demanded an explanation, I sensed a gentle answer. “I want it all… I did not spare my own Son for you but gave Him up, how will I not also graciously give you all things?” (Rom. 8:32). This was not a new argument for me. It was the same argument I voiced when I was told to stay in Canada for a year longer than I planned, when the location for my overseas apprenticeship changed, when I found myself stranded in an unfamiliar city because of an April snowstorm. It’s the argument I pull out when life doesn’t go how I planned; “Jesus, I said yes and gave you all these things, why aren’t you coming through?” I said, “You can have it all”, but I picked up the pieces of all the things Jesus has asked of me, in case I ever need to remind Him. Five months into life overseas, I had to say yes again, trusting that Jesus works all things for good.
Jesus has already done more than I could ever have imagined. He does not owe me an explanation or a road map. He asks me to give Him everything and then says, “I have so much more for you!”’ Jesus Himself is all-sufficient and God already gave Him for us. All I will ever need, all that could actually satisfy, all the world is longing for… is there in Jesus. God is not withholding good; He holds all things and longs to lavish His goodness on us.
Reflecting on her first year overseas, Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “We should not be surprised at the mysterious ways in which our loving Father works all things together for good.”1 During my unplanned year in Canada before moving overseas, I began mentoring a teenage girl. One day she asked me “Do you think Jesus loves me enough that He would change all your plans this year, because He knew I needed someone?” I did not hesitate in my answer, “Yes, He loves you that much.”
When life looks nothing like we planned, we can trust that the One who holds all things is surely working out something far better than we could have imagined.
1 Elliot, Elisabeth. Made for The Journey: One Missionary’s First Year in the Jungles of Ecuador. 1998. Reprint., Grand Rapids: Revell, 2018.
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I just read your newsletter, “I Want It All”. Wow, that is challenging. It is very difficult when our ‘plans’ don’t work out the way we thought they would turn out. I just wanted to let you know that people are praying for you and your work responsibilities. Be faithful where God has placed you.
If you have a chance, read Our Daily Bread “Borrowed Shoes”. Nov. 16, 2020 reading. I hope this will encourage you.
Volunteer Chaplain with Harvest Hills Alliance Church
Thank you for your article. It was a blessing.