Here we are on the brink of another year. Have you, like me, been looking back? As Micah told God’s people: remember your journey (Micah 6:5). Where have we been? What have we done?
Some of us began a new journey this year. We’ve finished deputation and are making final plans to go to our first overseas assignment. Others have been home on furlough visiting many old friends and family. Some have gone through the very real stress of changing fields in this last year, with all the upheaval of packing, saying goodbyes and resettling.
A few have experienced threats to the work or even their lives. They learned about persecution at a very personal level this year. Sickness may have struck. A few may have even lost loved ones.
The great majority of us would say we really experienced the Lord’s comfort and support in every phase of the journey.
A few have experienced the dark pain of betrayal by someone close. Many times, in these situations we feel we have no one we can trust to talk with. We are aware that talking about it can extend the circle of offense and make matters worse. We expect from time to time to have attacks from outsiders. We can excuse them because we believe they don’t know any better. But when the attack is from someone close, someone who should know better, it can be very hard to get over. No, these attacks are not always intentional. But still they wound us deeply. Many times God’s caring love has flowed to us through our friends, family, and supporters. They rallied behind us, encouraging, giving, and especially keeping our names in their prayers.
Many biblical characters experienced betrayal. David poured his heart out to God when it happened to him. You’ll find an example in Psalm 55. But David’s secret wasn’t just telling God what they had done. He also looked to God as his comfort and vindication.
Like David, we need to turn to God, pour out our hearts to Him, forgive those who have hurt us, and let God comfort us in His way. The alternatives, as many of you know, are too horrible to contemplate.
But maybe this year was not so momentous for you. It was a year of daily routines, many responsibilities, and few changes. We saw occasional glimpses of God’s handiwork and some visible results of our labor. Overall, though, a pretty routine year.
When our work doesn’t seem remarkable, it is important to remember God called us to the place we are and the tasks we do. His purposes are beyond our understanding, and the value of all work done for him and with him is eternal.
When we feel so ordinary, it is important to remember there are not nearly enough people doing what we are doing in the nations. The fields are white with the harvest and the laborers are few.
People back home look at us and say, “I couldn’t do what you are doing or go where you are going.” I often feel like answering, “But I’m not doing anything special! It is all very ordinary.”
When we were living in Africa, it seemed an inordinate amount of time was necessarily spent just doing the activities of daily living, like shopping, cooking and cleaning. It sometimes felt like our “real work” had to be shoe-horned into the day. But even our chores and lifestyle can speak to those around us.
Once a student asked my husband why we said please and thank you to our two small sons. (Had they actually noticed something as mundane as that?) My husband answered that we wanted to teach them good manners and show our appreciation for things they did to help us. The student was amazed because it was so different in their homes. He had been watching our family for some time and hearing the way we talked to our sons. We didn’t teach that lesson in a classroom, and didn’t even know that we were teaching it, but somewhere in Africa there is a father with a new understanding of leadership and parenthood.
Many times our husbands spend a lot more of their time and energy doing “the work.” They speak the language and sometimes have many more contacts than we do as wives and homemakers. But they couldn’t be doing what they are doing, if we didn’t do what we’re doing. We are a team. God brought us together as husband and wife and then gave us a job to do. Part of that job is “out there” and part is “at home.” Both are necessary for the job to be done right. In the final accounting, it will be the lives we led that mattered, not just the work we did.
Recently I have found fresh encouragement again in Colossians 3, especially verse 17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Whether in word or deed, we do it all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to the Father.
If our work is talking or translating, we do it for the Lord. Or if it is cooking and doing the dishes, then we do that for the Lord. Whatever needs to be done, we should do it with all our hearts. It is good to remember that we aren’t doing it for men, but for the Lord.
The key though, is in knowing that I will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward for my work, whether it was seen and appreciated by others or not. If what I did was in obedience to Him, He will be my rewarder.
Moms, the time and effort you put into raising your children, is not “wasted time” for your “work.” You cannot schedule when your child needs to talk to you. You cannot plan time to commend him after he’s said the right thing to a national worker. No one will remember you looked tired after you were up most of the night with a sick child. But the fact that you were there when she was awake in the wee hours of the morning will never be forgotten by her . . .or by her Heavenly Father.
Remember that we only know about the “significant” days in any of the Bible characters’ lives. Out of their whole lives, we have a record of only a few days. The rest was probably quite ordinary. It was doing what their hands found to do. It was tending sheep or growing figs. It was cooking and laundry and wiping runny noses. It was eating and sleeping and sharing and helping.
But in the midst of the mundane, they were aware of the miracles. They had a relationship with God that made them able to hear and respond to His nudge. Even the extraordinary things some of them did were only an extension of the ordinary they had been doing. David slew Goliath the same way he had killed a bear and a lion. Ruth got into Jesus’ genealogy by continuing to stay with Naomi and gathering grain when it was ripe.
So as we think of this past year, let’s thank God for His care for us and our families. Let’s forgive anyone that made this a hard year for us. And let’s thank God that He never left us or forsook us, even on the ordinary days. Let’s ask Him to help us be more sensitive to His whisper so that we might be used even more in our normal, everyday lives.