The Long Promise

Well, friends, this week marks one year since we left the U.S. for PNG. People told us that the first year on the field can be especially hard, and we definitely found that to be true. Months of transition, breath-stealing homesickness, feeling overwhelmed in new ministry roles, culture shock, and other unexpected difficulties came to a head for me in September. I was a mess. For a time, I wasn’t even sure we could continue here.

Some parts of our stories aren’t pretty.

Yeah, even missionaries.

But those parts need to be told, too, because it’s there in the raw mess that the God who makes all things new gently, slowly picks up our scattered pieces and restores us and peels back the healing layers to show His glory…

 


The Long Promise

StarsShe was old and weary, and the waiting that had burned in her bones for years was just smoke and ashes. He had forgotten. Or maybe He had never meant it in the first place. Or maybe she and Abraham had gotten in His way with all their scheming and knocked God’s plan off course. All Sarah knew is that it had been a very long time since she had really believed that a great nation would come from her womb, that she would hold the seed of hope and blessing in her arms.

Experience told her that God’s promises were hollow, and so she laughed. A sad, bitter laugh that came from a deep place as dead as her womb.

And then a few months later, Sarah, the woman who had laughed doubt while God Himself spoke, held her laughter child.

Some of God’s promises are long, long stories.

A few months ago, in the middle of a women’s retreat that was all about being brave, I stood in a field feeling anything but. I was exhausted, confused, adrift. Just plain scared. The hills around stretched and rolled toward the sky, and I had to fight the urge to run up and over and away. For the past few weeks, anxiety had been my near constant companion, keeping me from falling asleep until the wee hours and then waking me with an electric buzz far too early in the morning. And as soon as my eyes opened, a chorus of whispered lies would begin the day’s rehearsal.

“You can’t cut it here. You have nothing to offer. You can’t navigate relationships in this place. What makes you think you can do youth ministry or women’s ministry if you can’t even figure yourself out? Maybe you heard God wrong and you really aren’t supposed to be here.”

I came to the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea full of hopes and dreams, sure that God was promising to do something new. We’d been praying for His work here for years, praying for the people of this country, for the families we came to serve, for the teens, for God’s Word to take root.

And here I was, feeling battered and bruised and lost. Overwhelmed by the needs around me, by my own needs. Out of touch with the God who brought us here to this place so far away from the people who know our hearts and the life rhythms that make sense.

Away from nieces and nephews who grow too fast.

Away from birthdays and holidays and togetherness.

Away from parents who age and change as their bodies start to fail.

Away from family goodbyes. Six funerals, just this year.

I didn’t notice the hope being chipped away until I had almost none left.

And so I stood facing those hills and felt the hollowness deep in the place God’s promises used to roll like new life inside me.

That night they gave us glowsticks and told us to lay them out to form a word on the ground, whatever word God gave us.

And so I did.

PROMISE.

There on the grass, glowing blue and red and yellow. Not because I felt it.

Simply because I had to.

There was no other way to move forward than to choose to believe that God is faithful to come through on His promises.

When I was standing on the rim of life in Papua New Guinea, I could see God’s heart for this place clearly. Victory over darkness and healing and peace and freedom. My heart pulsed with His plans. I didn’t know how He was going to do it, but I was sure He was going to.

But in the middle… well, things are not so clear. Sometimes the road to healing is paved with an awful lot of brokenness, and the twists and turns leave us wondering if God really means what He says. The big picture is hard to see from inside the maze.

So I started small.

One promise. One Scripture I could hold onto.

“He rescued me because He delights in me.” (Psalm 18:19)

He delights in me.

And then another.

“‘My thoughts are completely different from yours,’ says the LORD, ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’” (Isaiah 55:8)

I don’t have to understand.

And another.

“And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” (Philippians 1:6)

He doesn’t leave me half done or His victories half won.

And another.

“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)

His timing. HIS timing.

Promise by long promise, rock by solid rock, a path up and over and away from anxiety and lies.

God is working. He hasn’t forgotten PNG or the people I have come to love, and He can’t be knocked off course. He is doing something new in this place.

And in me.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I will give thanks to your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness, because your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. When I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need.” (Psalm 138:1-3)

 

All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Lori
    Jan 4, 2016

    Beth ~ Thank you for your blog. The raw emotion you have shared is overwhelming as I read it, and so I can only imagine the depths and heights you reach for daily to feel God’s reassurance that you are where He needs you to be, to do His work.

    I continue to pray this prayer you asked everyone to pray before you started your journey:
    May you continue to live and love unafraid, now and for as long as God has you and your family in His care.

    My additional prayer for all of you is this:
    May your work be filled with God’s grace every day as He leads you where you need to be.

    • beth
      Jan 4, 2016

      Thank you so much for praying for us!

  2. Annemarie
    Jan 4, 2016

    The verse you gave me last year before you left, and has come back to me several times for the new year–“See, I AM doing a new thing. Don’t you see it? It is already happening!”–is more than appropriate! Love you!

    • beth
      Jan 5, 2016

      That verse is one that’s following me, too. Love you, friend!

  3. Ed G
    Jan 5, 2016

    I read this with tears in my eyes. Thank you for being willing to share and for trusting that the joy before you is worth more than the passing pain.

    • beth
      Jan 5, 2016

      Thank you for helping pray us through the last few months. We really appreciate you guys.

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