Living and serving overseas can be very humbling.
There’s that moment when you realise that the things you were great at in your home country, are, well, a bit of a struggle in your new context.
Great at public speaking, at mentoring, at building relationships? Well, first you’ve got to learn a whole new language and culture.
Super energetic and motivated all the time? Well, the culture-shock, different weather and the exhaustion of learning a new language and meeting new people may affect that.
There’s that moment when you realise you have limits—that you aren’t superwoman. Many people who choose to live and serve overseas are very driven, with an appearance of invincibility.
But eventually you realise that you actually can’t do and be everything. That you are a human and you do get tired. That learning a language is hard. That getting to know new friends takes energy. That you do need sleep, time with family and friends, and time for rest and for fun. If you don’t discover this for yourself pretty quickly, you’ll see it in the people around you. Burnout is very evident in expat communities.
Then there’s the moment that you realise that God doesn’t need you. You aren’t God. God is doing His good kingdom work, and although He invites you to join Him, He doesn’t need you. If you stop, if you rest, if you get sick and can’t keep working, the world will still be okay. Jesus is the Saviour, not us (thank goodness for that!).
But I think it’s deeper than that.
God doesn’t need us, but we need God.
This seems obvious, and it’s something we regularly say and often sing. But is it something we really, truly, deep-down believe?
That you need God, as much as those trauma survivors you’re caring for? As much as the vulnerable kids you minister to each week? As much as your neighbors who don’t yet have hope?
Yes, they all need God.
But so do you.
You also have a desperate desire and need for love. You have weaknesses and need His strength. You make mistakes and desperately need His grace.
Serving overseas can be a time when these significant limits are revealed to you.
It may be a time when you discover your desire to be known, loved and accepted. Even if you manage to quickly learn the language and make good friends, it is likely you’ll have a moment where you feel that you are not truly known in your new context.
It may be a time when you realise you find so much value in what you do, that when you can’t do things as well as you like or you have to stop altogether, you wonder if you even have worth anymore.
It may be a time when you constantly need to rely on grace (both from other people and God!) as you stumble your way through many challenges of cross-cultural living.
Do we have the humility to truly recognise our own brokenness?
In a recent conversation with a friend, they encouraged me as I “minister to the broken people in Cambodia.” But in fact, one of the most significant things I’m learning about in Cambodia is my own brokenness: my weaknesses, my need for grace and healing, and my deep desire to be loved and accepted that only God can fill. I’ve also had beautiful Cambodians minister to me as I go on my own healing journey, too.
When we pray for healing in the world, how often do we think of ourselves and our own need for healing?
When we sing songs and read passages about God bringing light to darkness, how often do we think about God bringing hope to our own lives?
We’re not the ones who have it all together, dishing out hope and love to others. We’re on a journey too! Sure, some may be a little further ahead than others, but we are all in desperate need of God’s healing.
There is something so special and beautiful in not treating people in our new context as our “client” who we have come to “fix” but instead journeying with them and blessing each other as we discover God’s love, grace and hope.
We need Him, together.
Which aspect of humility has God been teaching you about recently? How has you helped you beyond your human limits? What does the reality of “needing God” look like in your life?
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