Ignorant and naive are two words that would fairly describe me as I packed my two suitcases in preparation for a semester abroad in Africa.
I was giddy, excited, and completely ignorant.
Oh, and I wasn’t even 21.
The biggest issues looming at the forefront of my mind were whether I should pack this framed picture or that one, and which shoes I should wear on the plane.
Very mature, I know.
After two months, I had fallen in love with the city and people of Cape Town, South Africa, and in the height of the honeymoon stage, decided to extend my study permit for another two years. Soon after, I found myself in the beginning of a serious relationship with a (South African) man who would later become my husband.
That’s when reality hit.
I realized that if things moved forward as planned, I was making a serious commitment that would alter the course of my life forever.
And that’s when the grieving began.
I grieved in advance over things that hadn’t even happened yet — all of the birthdays, holidays, weddings and births I would miss if I chose to spend the rest of my life in a foreign country.
A couple of months later, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was home for Christmas.
I had already committed to returning to South Africa, and I doubted my decision every single day. I fell into a deep valley of neutral feelings toward God, which were compounded by waves of guilt for being a so-called cross-cultural worker for Jesus, when I really didn’t care about anything anymore.
Thankfully, the Lord lifted me out of my slump, but over the course of the next ten years, there would be countless times when I would ask Him to reveal the future to me.
I wanted to be able to see what was over the next hill, around the next corner.
I thought if I could just have a glimpse into what lie ahead, I would be able to better prepare myself.
I had grand plans to build a fortified wall around my heart and steel myself for any potential onslaught.
But He never said “yes” to that prayer.
In hindsight, what I wish I knew then, before moving overseas, is fairly simple, on paper.
Trust more. Worry less.
Oh, I could go into specifics, like “prepare yourself for moments when you might break into tears in the middle of the grocery store because it’s all just too much.” Or, “and while you’re at it, get ready to cry in the grocery store when you go home for furlough, too, because that will be altogether too much as well.”
I could talk about the phases and stages of cultural adjustment, both on the field and back in one’s home country.
But the bottom line of advice I would have for those preparing to go overseas is simply:
Trust more. Worry less.
Easier said than done, I know.
There were numerous, no countless, times I doubted the grace of God. I know it says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” but I honestly believed (and acted like) those words couldn’t possibly apply to me.
I can’t tell you how much easier things would’ve been if I’d just heeded Proverbs 3:5-6 — “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
But while I was busy not trusting, I worried. Finally, the Lord just kept bringing the same verse to me through various people, over and over and over again: “For who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25)
I see now that the reason God didn’t give me a glimpse into the future can be summed up in one word:
It was His mercy to keep me in the dark, so to speak, so His light could shine. He only lit the next step in the path, so I was forced to take His hand and walk forward in faith, not in my own strength and pride. First of all, if I had known what loomed on the horizon, I probably would’ve collapsed into a heap of tears, convinced I could never scale such ominous mountains.
And in reality, I couldn’t. He did it. It was only through the grace and strength of Christ that has caused me to stay standing today.
In hindsight, I can testify that His grace is sufficient, and He will make the paths straight for those who trust in Him.
Trust more. Worry less. When the sun is shining, and when the clouds threaten a coming storm. To God be the glory.
In what areas of your life are you needing to trust more and worry less?