Everything is a gift.
Not only the things that bring us joy and satisfaction, not only the people that make us feel loved and worthy and important, not only times of peace and confidence and trust. No, EVERYTHING is a gift.
The last few months in Asia, I would say that God grew me exponentially in my faith. And although my time there was filled with much joy and much peace, there were also moments of extreme distress, of heartache, of sadness, and a few times, namely in the northern part of Myanmar, I was so downright scared by the terrible things I saw that I nearly booked a flight back to the USA for the very next day (I didn’t.)
As I reflect back on the work God has done in my heart over the last few months, I realize that the spiritual growth that occurred came primarily from the difficult periods, rather than the “easy” ones. I am ridiculously thankful for the joyful times – really overall, I think that these were the best 3 months of my entire life. But, when I think about what pushed me most towards Jesus, it was the hard moments. The stressful moments. The times when I felt so out-of-control and scared that I knew the ONLY thing “for sure” was Jesus.
When I returned to the USA last fall after extensive travel, depression hit me, hard. I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time, but I suffered from situational depression for about the first 3 months I was back in America. The reverse-culture shock was too much for me to handle, and I had drifted far from the Lord, forgetting that He was the only one who could sustain me. It was my first time living in the USA again, after having spent 4 years abroad. My brain just couldn’t adjust to what was “supposed” to feel like home, I felt overcome by the stress of trying to “measure up” to American standards of success and value, and I just shut down.
You’re probably thinking (if you’re still reading this, haha) that I’m going to tell you that these terrible 3 months ended up being a gift. Well, they weren’t. They just sucked. I was miserable, and I didn’t really have a turning point where I got myself out of that pit, God just had grace for me and overtime it went away. No “success story” there.
The thing is, those three months COULD have been a gift, if I had chosen to see them that way. God promises us in His Word, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28.) But haven’t you ever seen someone receive a ridiculously good gift, yet be ungrateful for it? Yet not receive the gift with the same love with which it was given? I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. Gratefulness is a decision. And often times, we don’t decide to be grateful, we choose bitterness.
Difficult times in our lives are gifts because they are opportunities to turn to Jesus. But whether or not we receive the gift is up to us.
Coming back to America is always difficult for me, but this time feels different. There is still reverse culture shock. There is still the “anti-climax” of coming back to the familiar place where I grew up after months of spontaneity and adventure and excitement. There is still the heartache of having left good friends and “family” in a country I love so dearly thousands of miles away. There is still the ever-looming voice in my head telling me I should be far along in a career by now, should be married by now, should at least have finished my darn Bachelor’s degree by now…
But I am choosing to embrace it ALL as a gift. To see it as an opportunity to remind myself every day that my identity is in Christ alone, to seek the peace that comes from the Lord earnestly, trusting whole-heartedly that He will be faithful, to understand more deeply my desperate need for Jesus, and to live abundantly despite any and all obstacles because in the end, all that matters is HIM.
Photos in this post are from Taejongdae in Busan, South Korea
I love Jesus and what He has to teach me while I wander around the planet. My other favorite things include: foreign languages, yoga, hiking,
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