Hopeful to Heartsick

“The government is letting us all go back to our villages, but just for three weeks.”

Wow, that was good news! We couldn’t do much in three weeks, but after years of not being able to work with the people groups we loved, a short visit was better than nothing. We all praised God and spent the next few days happily preparing to travel. But, on the morning of our trip, a phone call from headquarters,

“The minister refused to sign the final authorization. It’s all off.”

Unpack everything. Our hopes dashed. Back to waiting.

This sort of thing happened again and again. Proverbs 13:12 describes perfectly what was happening to us. “Hope often deferred makes the heart sick.”

After so many times of getting our hopes up and then being let down, our hearts became sick. I did not know how sick my own heart was until we went on furlough.

We returned to Canada, settled into an apartment, and I went to the Wycliffe Canada office to discuss furlough plans. Our director was delighted to see me,

“Look what I’ve got for you, Jack”, he said, handing me a sheaf of letters. As I paged through them I saw dozens of invitations to speak, at churches, conferences, and colleges—the very thing I loved to do on furloughs.

But not this time. “I’m sorry, Jim,” I said, “I have nothing to say to the churches in Canada. As far as I’m concerned God has let me down. He’s let me down big time.” With that I handed the letters back to my boss, turned away to hide my tears, and walked quickly out of his office.

As I drove home, my mind went to the Canelas; who, for the past four years, had been without the medical and dental assistance we had been providing. No one was there to help people learn to read. And above all, no one was there to translate more of God’s Word, or to encourage them to read what they had.

When I got home, I sat down on the couch, picked up my Bible, and remembered an event that happened during the last month we were in the village before our expulsion.

I had been called to a house where a lovely young woman had just choked on something. I tried to resuscitate her but failed and was on my knees beside her dead body crying with her dad, mom and sisters.

Suddenly her husband came running into the house, all sweaty and dusty from working in his field garden. He flung himself on his wife’s corpse crying out, “I love you so! I love you so! Oh, why did you have to die?” We all dissolved in tears and cried for a long time.

Go Away! Don't Come Back to Haunt Me! I Hate You!

Go Away! Don’t Come Back to Haunt Me! I Hate You!

After some time the men came in to bury her. They prepared her body, rolled it in a mat and tied it tightly into a bundle, then tied the bundle to a pole. They picked up the ends of the pole and as they walked out the door to bury her, the husband got up from the floor, his face still streaked with tears, and walked after the bier shouting,

“I used to love you, but now I don’t. Now I hate you! Don’t come back as a ghost and haunt me. I hate you. I hate you!” Her parents and her sisters shouted the same thing.

As I sat on the couch and remembered that event something deep within me died. I stood up, stalked to the front window of our apartment, looked up into the sky and, holding up my Bible, I shouted,

“What’s the matter with You anyway! Where is that power I keep reading about, eh? It seems to me those politicians in Brasilia have more power than You have. And wisdom? I don’t know. It seems like You don’t know what You are doing anymore. And as far as love goes, I think I love those Canelas more than You do!”

I threw down my Bible and turned my back on God.

It was over. I was done.

I was done. But God wasn’t.

(Next week, the rest of the story.)

 

3 thoughts on “Hopeful to Heartsick

  1. When I look at the Psalms I hear them wrestling with God as you were. I got the idea that we have two hands for a reason — one to hold out to God to plead with Him, “What are you doing, God?” The other hand is to hold on to Him as tightly as possible.

    I have a question: When people are discouraged and frustrated with God and the circumstances as you were, Jack, how can we hear and know the cry of their heart? Often I hear about stories like this, but I only hear their story AFTER they have gone through it. I would like to be available to people in a non-judgemental fashon so that they feel it is safe to open up and let me know what their honest feelings are.

    • Hi Phil,
      I wrote an Open Letter to God about my complaints, pleading with Him to re-open the doors to ministry among the Canelas. The letter was published as major article in Wycliffe’s flagship magazine In Other Words, and provoked a lot of comment. I remember a colleague bursting out during a prayer meeting in Belem, “Oh, Jack, we had no idea you were hurting this much!” The reason probably was that everyone else was hurting too. But that pastor was able to stay calm and clear in his mind, since he was not personally hurting with the same problem. Your idea of being available to listen in a safe environment has a lot of merit.

  2. HELLO AGAIN–at first this newsletter was just a story and something interesting about the life of a translator, and his family–especially since it happened in the past. Then I began a prayer which often I have prayed about how to serve in the need for more to hear, so many possibilities exist. Mostly it is a matter of prayer and finding out what for and where it is needed. But again and again there is one thing which is holding my prayer in a place not moving forward, and the story was able to mirror this so I am now seeing this more clearly. Now once again thanks is in order and it will be possible to be more direct and specific with the prayer now, and on serving with prayer and other ways. Yes I will let you know too.from,
    Pam

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