6 Doubts of Life Overseas {The Grove}

Can I ask a very real and honest question here today?  Can I ask it because I think it needs to be asked for my life and yours?  Can I ask it here in this is a safe place, a place where we understand each other’s hearts?   I wouldn’t ask it with just anyone, but I’ll ask it here with you.  Because I want to talk about this.

Is it wrong to doubt?

I feel like it is wrong, not because I’ve logically or scripturally come to that conclusion. I feel like it’s wrong to doubt because of how doubt is handled by Christians, even (or especially?) by those in our profession.  It feels wrong, because when doubts are expressed, they seems to face a litany of judgements masked in pat answers with point-and-shoot Bible verses.  Either that, or people lift their shoulders with that uncomfortable, “I don’t know what to tell you” look on their face.

And that just leaves us doubters hanging, wishing that we hadn’t mentioned it.  So we tuck our doubts back in, leaving them to fester in the dark.  On good days we can ignore them, forget them almost.  On bad days they swirl with a force, threatening to break the dam and pull us under.

When I look at the people of the Word, at the men and women after God’s own heart, the ones he was using to bring about his purposes, I don’t see pat answer kind of people.

I see Sarah laughing at God’s promise to her.  I see Moses saying, “Lord, please!  Send anyone else.”  I see Solomon calling it all vanity.  I see Peter freezing up in denial at the most critical time.

I see David, writing out all his fiercely real doubts in song.  “God, how long are you going to forget about me?”

I see Jesus himself cried out, “Isn’t there any other way?” And, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Does it strike you that God allowed all this into his Word?  That he didn’t skip over or edit these moments out?  He could have written only the brave, fearless moments of his servants into his story, but…he didn’t.

Maybe, maybe we need to rethink how we handle doubt.  Because maybe bottling up our doubts is killing us.  Maybe feeling guilty about our doubts just makes them worse.  Maybe we need to stop pretending like there is an answer to everything, and be okay that there’s not.  Maybe we need to find safe places to bring our doubts out in the open so we can wrestle them without shame.

I think that’s what we’re meant to do here today, in this place where we understand.

So let’s start with these 6 Doubts of Life Overseas.

1.  I know that God can provide a husband for me where I am, but… I doubt that he will.  Is this life and work worth sacrificing my chances for marriage and family?

2.  I know that where God calls me, he also calls my children.  But when I see them hurting because of this life we are living, I doubt that this calling is good for my children.

3.  I know that sacrifice is part of the call.  But what about our health?  Some days the threat of harm and illness is suffocating.  All the what if’s… I doubt I could handle that sacrifice.

4.  I know that it takes time, but the progress is so slow and frustratingly immeasurable, sometimes I doubt that I am making a difference.  I doubt it is worth it all this.

5.  I know that this is the way we do things, but some days the audacity of it all strikes me.  That we as outsiders starting with no language or cultural understanding can come in and expect to see true change in a people and place?  I doubt our blunders don’t outweigh our progress, both personally and historically.

6.  I know that God loves me regardless of where I live and serve him, but if I returned to my home country, I would feel… less than I doubt whether I would be fulfilled back home, yet I don’t know how to keep living here.     

These words are quaking a bit, trembling at being out in the open, not hidden in our heart’s dark days.

Are any of these words your own?  Have these doubts circled in your soul?

Let’s let our doubts see the light of day here at The Grove, in a place that’s safe to do so.  Let’s wrestle them without shame.  Let’s be reminded we are not alone.

“And… then what?” you might be asking.

Do we air our doubts so that we can collectively wallow in them?  Well…yes, actually.  I think we do that first.  We sit with each other in the pain and fear and doubt, offering no answers, just the comfort of our presence.

We acknowledge when there are no answers.

And then, like an quiet anthem rising we echo softly to each other, “And yet we believe….and yet we believe.”

We believe in Jesus and in his audacious ways.

We believe Jesus is a game-changer, and even when he’s not, it’s okay.

We believe that the cost is real, very real, and he is worthy.

We believe there is a time to be sent out and a time to return.

We believe God is not afraid of doubt, that our doubts are part of our story, written into his story.

We believe that in the face of our biggest, crashing doubts, we cling to The Rock, our voices crying out, “And yet we believe!

*****

Which of the 6 doubts do you wrestle with?  What would you add to the list?

 

This here is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And  link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.

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40 Comments

  1. Kristi October 9, 2014

    I just have questions:  Is doubt just an indicator for the need of sanctification or can it me an instrument of sanctification?  Doubt is universal, but something being universal does not make it “right”.  Is asking “why” the same as doubting?  (I don’t think Jesus questions can be equated with the “doubts” of others in the Bible.)  So are there good doubts and sinful doubts?  Is all doubt sinful?  Is doubt synonymous with the sin of unbelief? I’ve been wrestling with this for quite some time.  Thanks for this space to share.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 9, 2014

      Such good questions, Kristi.  I’m still wrestling too.  The words above were definitely not my conclusion to the questions, but my wrestling with them.  And you’re absolutely right, universal does not mean “right.”  And I think that a dark night of the soul (such as Jesus experienced) is not the same as the sin of unbelief.  But, yes, where is the difference, when does it shift?  Would love to hear others thoughts on this.  The paradox of belief mixed with doubt.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

       

       

      1. Kristi October 12, 2014

        It feels like doubt is not trusting in God’s goodness, love, and sovereignty.  I feel like I’m spitting in His face and rejecting His gifts when I doubt.  In James it says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”  We contribute to our own frustration.  I need to hear Jesus say, “Peace. Be still.  Know I AM God.  I have a plan.  I love you.”

        1. Grace L October 13, 2014

          I agree with you completely, Kristi. Yes, doubts will come, but we need to stand firm in the promises of God and keep on trusting him. I do believe that God is all loving and totally sovereign and that He is working all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

    2. M'Lynn October 9, 2014

      Kristi, You pose some excellent questions, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers. I think doubt can be both an indicator of our need for sanctification AND an instrument of sanctification. Like the “check engine” light on the dashboard of a car, doubt can be a sign that we need to pull over and check our hearts and spend some time on our knees. Seasons of doubt can be a powerful instrument of sanctification in our lives. When I look back at times I’ve doubted His goodness to me, I can so clearly see how He was there all the time and even through my doubt and pain and worry, He carried me through. That strengthens my faith on the other side of that season!

  2. M'Lynn October 9, 2014

    I’m right there with ya on #3. I wrote my blog post before reading this…so that confirms it!

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      So glad you fleshed that one out for us, M’Lynn.  Your post resonates deeply…

  3. Amanda October 9, 2014

    I have, at some point in my 10 years in China, struggled with 5 of the 6 doubts listed above (not #2 because I don’t have kids!). I find that it’s easier for me to share my doubts with others on the field, who really get this life, than it is to share them with people in the States. I’m afraid that if I share any of these doubts with family, friends, supporters who have never served overseas, their first reaction will be: it’s obvious, come home! Which comes to my current biggest “doubt” that sort of encompasses all of them: how do I know when it’s time to leave the field and come home? When do all those doubts outweigh the call (and yet, do they?!?), and it’s time to leave? I want to believe that God will make it clear when it’s time to return to the States. But sometimes I doubt He will. I fear I will forever be stuck between two worlds, not feeling like I fully belong or fit in to either. This topic, this post really resonated with me today. Thanks for a place to share. I look forward to hearing from others too.

    1. M'Lynn October 10, 2014

      “I’m afraid that if I share any of these doubts with family, friends, supporters who have never served overseas, their first reaction will be: it’s obvious, come home!”

      Amanda, I definitely feel that way, too! It’s kind of like when I say goodbye, I don’t let them see me hurting because I’m afraid they’ll think I don’t want to return to China. But, the truth is, they all love us dearly and want what’s best for us…even though they have their doubts as well! As hard as it is for those of us who are called to go, I think it’s harder for those who love us and have to stay and watch us go. The doubts they have are not brought on by their choice…they’re brought on by a choice we’ve made and they have to live with it. 

    2. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      I feel that same struggle in sharing the hard stuff with those  that would rather we just pack up and come back.  So glad we have this place here where we can all relate.  And I have no answers for when and if it’s time to return.  No answers, but lots of love and prayers while you live in that tension.

  4. Danielle Becl October 10, 2014

    The doubt I struggle with the most is number 2.  I doubt that this call is good for my kids. My son, who’s 8, has really been struggling lately and it breaks my heart!  So hard to see how it’s good in the midst of pain.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Thank you for linking up with us, Danielle, and sharing about your struggle.  Our hearts break with you.  Praying for you, for your son and for the indescribable ache that it is to watch your child hurt.

    2. Lauren Pinkston October 10, 2014

      This is so hard, Danielle. I recently starting having fears about the way my daughter was being molded by being home with only her father or me during the day. I don’t want her to miss out on socialization, but there aren’t a great number of people we trust to leave her with, and those we do trust have a lot of kids of their own already. Lifting your son up now.

      1. Lindsey October 11, 2014

        Oh Laura, me too! My son has no kids here his age to play with and is home with just my husband and me all day. I have a lot of fears about him becoming the “weird loner kid” later since he had no socialization at one years old. 🙂 He has also become VERY clingy the last few months since we are in the same boat as you and have no one to really leave him with in this new country.

  5. miranda October 10, 2014

    “2. I know that where God calls me, he also calls my children.  But when I see them hurting because of this life we are living, I doubt that this calling is good for my children.”

    I have had these thoughts. But then i am constantly reminded that the Father loves my children more than i do. And as He has done in the past, if i keep my eyes on Him, He will show me and my husband how to parent our children so that our life overseas is a joyous and positive  experience for them. Our first 3 months overseas.. we were doing it all wrong. We arrived thinking we needed to help and be everything to everyone and consequently our kids were a mess emotionally . But the Father is so gracious. He made it so we had to return home, despite our plan of not returning home for a few years. We spent three months back home and in that time we were able to reflect and the Holy Spirit showed us how to do things better. When we returned we did things a whole lot differently and the experience was totally different for our kids. We are back in our passport country again at the moment renewing visa’s and my kids are constantly asking when we are going back. So when doubt tries to enter into my mind in this area, i remind myself of the Father’s faithfulness in the past.

    “6. I know that God loves me regardless of where I live and serve him, but if I returned to my home country, I would feel… less than.  I doubt whether I would be fulfilled back home, yet I don’t know how to keep living here.”

    Yep. This has totally been my experience the past 8 months. We were planning on only being in our passport country for 2 months  but due to our visa’s being held up we have been here alot longer. I have definitely struggled with my identity while being ‘home’. I have felt like i am not doing anything that is meaningful and have felt “less than”. But once again the Father has used this time to teach  me and grow me. He wants my identify to be in Him not in what i do. my purpose is to know Him and to know that i am Known by Him. This is what He is teaching me. I need to come to a place where i would be content if He called me to stay “home” permanently. I am not quite at that place yet. I want to have a greater revelation of His love so that i no longer feel like i need to do but just be.

     

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Thanks so much for sharing your story of hope about your kids, Miranda.  Unlearning the idea that we need to be all thing to everyone, this is such a game changer.

      And this: “He wants my identify to be in Him not in what i do.”  Amen and amen.  I think we’re all right there with you (or at least I am!) in wanting to be content no matter where we are called.

  6. Elizabeth October 10, 2014

    Definitely, always #2. I’m constantly thinking, “my poor kids.” Their lives are so different than my husband’s and my childhoods, growing up in suburban and rural neighborhoods, wide open spaces to run and play and bike and imagine. In a city without nice parks and in an apartment without a yard, well, we feel guilty for what we are subjecting them to.

    And also #6. My husband and I look at life and ministry overseas as a 6-person package deal. We know if one of us died, we would return, so our kids could be with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins in their grief. We know we are not strong enough to live here as a single parent of 4 kids. But I think — what would life be like in America? I know I don’t want to live there now, because our life is HERE. So it’s hard to imagine a return of any kind, not just for death, but also for burnout or health reasons. Even when life here is hard, I have no desire to pick up and leave. I just want the annoying things to be fixed! LOL.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Love your honesty, Elizabeth, and the fact that you’ve addressed the “what if one of us died” question openly.

  7. Laura October 10, 2014

    Danielle, thank you for this post; it struck a chord with me today. I struggle with #1 and #4, which I don’t think is always a good combination, especially when I’m doing my best to persevere and make wise decisions. However, I find it far easier to persevere and trust God’s plan when I discuss my doubts with others who live overseas because chances are they are having (or have had) the same doubts.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Yes, exactly.  We’re not the first ones to this rodeo, are we?  There is the gift of those who have gone before us and are around us.  Glad this struck a chord in you.  Your beautiful previous post about your struggle with #1 stayed with me and found it’s way here.

  8. Kim October 10, 2014

    #2, #2, #2, #2!!!!!  This is a HUGE struggle for me right now.  We have had our kids in local school so they could learn language and make friends, but we decided to pull them out at the end of the month.  They are bored to death and the method of education here is completely stealing their joy and love for learning.  We had to take a step back and think again about our priorities.  Can I trust that they will learn language and be able to make friends outside of school?  Can I trust that God knows what is best for them?  Can I trust that even though they don’t have my American definition of “a happy childhood” (friends, sleepovers, extracurriculars…) that they can still be happy and have a rich life?  What is the MOST important? God knows my kids and He knew they would grow up here.  I have to trust Him in that.  But, still I doubt.   Thank you for this post.  🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Ah, the local school conundrum.  I had no idea how stressful schooling decisions for our kids would be until we started making them.  So I feel you.  And yes, you’re right.  It’s about trusting God to redefine in our minds what childhood should be, and finding and living in rhythms that reflect that which is most important to us.  We’re in that on-going (never ending?) process ourselves.

  9. Elizabeth S-G October 10, 2014

    Lately I’m doubting that this life is good for our marriage, and that scares me because we have always been so strong as a couple. We are stretched to the max, especially with demands of setting up a new home and daily life in the rural African bush, and have nothing left over of time or emotion to give to one another. How do we care for our marriage in these circumstances? I suppose a step forward is that we are recognizing it and talking about it.#4 resounds with me as well. Thank you for this timely post and for the honesty and vulnerability shown in this place.

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Oh, I’m glad you brought this up.  Stretched to the max, with nothing left to give each other.  I wish that wasn’t familiar, but it is.  I think those times inevitably come with transition.  The danger is when it becomes the norm.  My husband and I have recently had to rethink what making each other a priority means and recommit to creatively and consistently making it happen.  Otherwise we won’t make it in this life.

      Would love to hear others thoughts on this too.

    2. Lauren Pinkston October 10, 2014

      Hey, Elizabeth…such honest thoughts and real fears. I can join you here and relate. My marriage has always been the one constant thing I could depend on, and I was terrified to see how it would be affected by this move overseas. There are days that have been really dark. Some days that I felt completely misunderstood and others that I completely misunderstand my husband. We are changing so quickly and so deeply, sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I didn’t understand the power of sex until I made this move (can I say that here?????). That and intentional weekly planning…I can’t put a price on those things. We have to schedule specifics times throughout the week for us to reconnect as a couple about the ways we’re changing individually. Thanks for sticking your neck out there for this one.

  10. T October 10, 2014

    Hi, friends.  I have 3 kids.  Whenever that doubt about the kids starts to take root in my thoughts, I try to talk to an adult TCK (we have 3 on our team).  In fact, some of my very favorite people are adult TCKs…and as a bonus, they can help me remember the positives about this lifestyle.   I’m not trying to discount or remove your doubts or feelings, but just wanted to give it as a suggestion.   I think the doubts you listed were spot on…can we add something about God saving our non-believing loved ones in our home countries w/out our constant witness there?  That can be tough at times, as well!

    1. Danielle Wheeler October 10, 2014

      Such a good idea to have an encouraging, truth-telling adult TCK that you turn to when the doubts start to take root in your heart.  Some of my favorite people are TCKs too.

      And absolutely we should add to the list the doubt involved in leaving non-believing loved ones behind.  This is huge.

  11. Cecily Willard October 11, 2014

    Okay.  Maybe I have a doubt to add.  Or maybe it is not a doubt, but just a question.

    Life is hard.  The call is hard, but I am ready and willing to pay the price if I could just know for sure that this is God’s call.  But how do I know that the hardness of it is just the way it is, or if I am doing something that is just making it hard?  I mean, if I were stronger, had it more together, was not so sensitive…  Maybe it isn’t supposed to be so hard, but I am just so weak.

    Why do relationships hurt so much?  Why does the pain never stop?  Why am I so sensitive (and why do people have to keep reminding me of the fact?)?  Is God upset with me because, maybe, I make things harder than they have to be?

    Yes, okay, being single on the field is hard.  But I wouldn’t trade it to go to American to “find” a husband. Enough already with that kind of thinking.

    I am just tired of pain, of hurting, of longing, of loving until it hurts and then hurts still more.  Life hurts.  Jesus promised suffering.  But will it crush me so that I am ineffective?  I don’t want to go “home”.  This foreign land has become my home.  But maybe I am not enough for the task?  Maybe that is my doubt.

    1. Grace L October 12, 2014

      Cecily, what if all this pain you are going through is just training ground for how God wants to use you to minister to others who are struggling with emotional pain? I do not know you but I very much doubt that God is upset with you because you make things harder than they need to be. God knows you inside and out and He knows your weakness, and even so, He called you and He is delighted in your obedience to that call.

      Before I came to the field, I went through so much emotional pain and was always seeking out “inner healing” for all the stuff I was dealing with. Over the many years before coming overseas, I experienced so many life hurts. But now, being on the field, and ministering to local women, young and old, I find that out of my painful experiences, I can first UNDERSTAND and second, I can comfort and encourage. And I encourage you to find ways you can encourage others who are struggling with pain and rejection and loss in their lives.

      Another thing I learned from so much pain is the importance of my relationship with God and having to always go back to trusting Him, especially when I couldn’t figure out what was going on or how I would deal with issues. Being older now, I can look back and thank God for all He let me experience. I have been ministering to a younger woman now for 2 years who has been going through a long season of physical weakness and doubt about God’s hand upon her. What a joy it is to see her getting better, but it is even more of a joy to see her encouraging other local women who are struggling.

      If I had not struggled with so much emotional pain and tears over the years, I would not be able to minister to others with true compassion. Oh, and this younger woman recently ministered back to me with great encouragement.

      I can also relate to you about not wanting to go back to my passport country. Yes, this foreign land has become my “home”. My biggest “doubt” is #6. I doubt whether I would be fulfilled back home, but for now I am grateful that I can go on living here. But I soon turn 70; what will I do if I can no longer stay here? This is where I really need to trust God for His plan for me.

      Cecily, God loves you and has a plan for you. Obviously, that plan include you following His call. He knows your pain and I am quite sure that He wants to use that pain for you to minister to others, whether they be locals or other expats. Our Lord would say to you from 2 Cor. 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” The apostle Paul replied “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Amen!

      1. T October 12, 2014

        Ah, Grace!  I loved reading your response here…and love that you said you’ll turn 70 soon!  I really miss having older, wiser women around me who are following Jesus!  Thanks for being on here!

        1. Grace L October 12, 2014

          Ah, the blessing of getting older…gaining wisdom. Thank you for your encouragement:)

      2. Cecily Willard October 12, 2014

        Thank you, Grace, for taking the time to respond.  When I am feeling a bit stronger, perhaps I can say more.

        1. Grace L October 12, 2014

          Cecily, have faith that you will get stronger, and in the meantime, lean hard on Him. I fully understand… and I will lift you up to His throne. I know that He is there also interceding for you. His mercies are new every morning, so great is His faithfulness.

  12. Ashley Felder October 11, 2014

    #2 and #4. As others have mentioned above, it’s hard to see the good when we watch our children suffer. But, recently a teenage TCK wise beyond her 14 years emailed me to encourage me that all will be ok. That although her childhood growing up overseas was tough, she knew that God called AND used her along with her parents. It gives me goosebumps to type that out! I pray my kids can have the same perspective, and not the “I hate my life” one that I imagine them to have.

    As for not feeling useful or impactful… well, I wrote about that already. I had a good taste of what He wants me to do the past 2 years, but now I’m adding in another newborn once we return. My fears return all over again. Will I just become a nursing, homeschooling, argument-breaking hermit? I sure hope not, but I do know I’ll have to adjust my expectations…again…before we return. Oh, the ever-changing lives we live.

  13. Anisha October 12, 2014

    Number 5! Yes, so many doubts.mthanks for writing about this so well. I wrote about doubt related issues I’m facing a couple weeks ago on my personal blog. Will share the link here instead of the linkup as wasn’t written specifically for this week at the Grove 🙂

    The Raging Sea:

    http://namasayamommy.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-raging-sea.html

  14. Jennifer Davis October 12, 2014

    I struggle with the first doubt. It has gotten a lot harder  now that I’m on home assignment and everywhere I look, I’m celebrating engagements and pregnancies with all of my closest friends. People always ask, “What’s new with you?” And all I have to add is “Just focused on fundraising and speaking engagements!” All the while, the secret feeling of loneliness and wanting a man to share this amazing but hard adventure with comes to the surface. And at my speaking engagements, I always break the ice with the joke, “I’ve been overseas for 9 months, but can see myself staying there forever, so please ask Him for a husband on my behalf!” We all laugh, but I’m realizing that I ask so many people, including strangers, to pray about this because I truly doubt that He will deliver.

    1. Jaime October 12, 2014

      I have been struggling with the same thing for my entire 2 years on the field.  It can be really discouraging to look around and see 5-7 single women for every single man that comes here.  One of my friends recently encouraged me with this:  it’s hard to find a husband here.  There aren’t many single men, but that means that if and when He provides someone it will be that much more precious.  Because it’s so difficult here, I will know that it was He who worked it out and nothing else.

      That doesn’t mean I the struggle and doubt have gone away, but it is encouraging to think about,

      1. Jennifer Davis October 12, 2014

        Jaime, I totally understand what you are saying! It’s the same single women to single men ratio where I am as well. We far out-weigh the number of men on the field where I am too. You’re friend is so right…when He does deliver, there will be no doubt that it is Him. Tell your friend I said thanks for the encouragement and thank you for passing it on!

  15. Beth October 22, 2014

    I have doubted the call.

    I have doubted the goodness of God.

    I have doubted God when it came to the past/future.

    I have doubted…

    I have been silent.

    I have been angry.

    I have questioned.

    Walked away for 11 years.

    And in the midst of the doubt…

    God was still God.

    He is loving.

    He is accepting of my doubts…

    He gets my mustard seed faith.

    He has set me in place where I am

    safe,

    learning to breathe,

    not be on a hamster wheel to prove

    i am good enough.

    He is loving me in my weakness

    letting me glory in it.

    So that He gets all the praise.

    I doubt.

    But He is still God

    over all…

    I hear Him daily

    whisper my name.

    I can

    breathe.

    I can

    live.

    I can

    be…

    1. Jennifer October 22, 2014

      Powerful! Thanks so much for sharing! And, you are so not alone in this.

       

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