God had let me down. I could no longer trust Him. I was done with Him. But He wasn’t done with me. (First part of the story in last week’s blog post)
He brought into my life a godly pastor who became aware of my distress, and invited me to have breakfast with him at a nearby restaurant. He listened closely as I cried, ranted, and poured out my disappointments and frustrations with God. The following week we had breakfast again.
He listened. Prayed for me. Prayed with me. Shared relevant Scriptures. Asked questions to help me think and not just feel. Week by week he gave me homework questions to think about in the light of Scriptural truth.
Gradually it became clear to me that I believed things about God that simply were not true.
For instance, I was convinced that the task of reaching the world for Christ was urgent, that sooner is always better than later, and that God was in a hurry to reach every people group with the Good News.
I was also convinced that God wanted us to spend as little money as possible. God was poor and therefore personal luxuries were sin. God wanted us to “Make it do, fix it up, wear it out, or do without,” both in our personal and family life, and in our ministry to the Canela people.
I was, therefore, deeply frustrated, when we had lived frugally, going without even an ice cream cone for our kids, in order to pay for the next trip to the Canela village, only to be ordered to return within days at the whim of some official. Lots of money spent, but no ministry work done. Where was God in all this?
The worst frustration, however, had to do with the urgency of the missions task. I vividly remember a poster in Bible school, “100,000 souls a day go into a Christless eternity, what are you doing about it?” illustrated by a picture of hordes of people stumbling over a cliff into a smoking, fiery pit.
Yet God did not act with any degree of urgency concerning the people groups of Brazil. “Come on!” I felt like screaming, “We’ve done our part, now get with it, and do Your part! Don’t You want those Canelas in heaven with you?”
But He was not in a hurry. It was a concept my whole being rebelled against. The unfairness and injustice of it all appalled me. After nearly 2,000 years there were still thousands of people groups with no chance of hearing or reading the Good News since it had never yet been translated in their languages. How much longer did they have to wait, and die, and go into a Christless eternity? It wasn’t fair!
Week after week, my pastor helped me to think through my wrong ideas about God in low-key talks over breakfast. Finally, after six months, I gained a clearer insight about who God really is, and what He does. I realized that God was not poor, and He was not in a hurry. These were not biblical concepts at all, but ideas I had picked up from my upbringing and from my Christian sub-culture.
I walked back to our apartment, walked up to that same front window and looked up into that same sky.
“God,” I said, “I am so sorry. I blasphemed your power, wisdom, and love. You are the most powerful Being in the universe. You hold the heart of the president of Brazil in Your hand and can turn it this way or that way just like a farmer turns water to flow in an irrigation ditch.
“And when it comes to wisdom, You are so wise and Your ways are so convoluted, You can’t explain them to a dummy like me.
“And about love, You sent Your only Son to die for those Canelas and I would never send Valorie, Leanne or Cheryl to die for them.”
The Lord saw my repentant heart and forgave my earlier blasphemy. He restored His Spirit within me and gave me a message for the churches in Canada. I asked my director for invitations to speak. And for the next six months, I spoke at events several times a week. I had only one message. “People, this is a spiritual battle, you have got to pray!”
Furlough was over—time to return to Brazil. We phoned to find out what the current situation was.
“Nothing has changed. It’s been five years. We are still all in exile.”
(Next week, more of the story.)