Pure Joy in the Hand

My son is 7 years old. He’s in the second grade. And he *thinks* he knows everything. No one can tell him anything because he already knows the answer. It’s amazing to me… and drives me crazy all at the same time.  However, I’m not that much different than him.  I remember when I was growing up, I always thought that I was older and wiser than the age I was at the time. It’s something that I most likely still to think today. Anyone else with me?

When I was 24 years old, my husband and I, moved to San Francisco, California. We were barely two years into our marriage when we put our “yes” on the table to re-pioneer an urban ministry in one of the last African-American neighborhoods of the city- Bayview-Hunters Point. You could see the old 49er Stadium from our back porch, which more than thrilled my “Niner Loving” husband. There were 16 known gangs in our neighborhood and a plethora of opportunities to share the love of Christ with those living around us. We were eager and ready. So we thought.

“Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

We had no idea what lay before us. My husband loved the neighborhood.  He was out on the streets daily- praying, talking with people, telling them about Jesus.  I, on the other hand, began a silent battle within my heart.  I loved Jesus.  I loved missions.  I loved my husband. But I did not love living in a huge city with no real friends or community. I did not love the isolation or loneliness that crept into my heart. There were so many things not to love about that season and I began to have a lot of anxiety and panic attacks when I could no longer suppress the battle that was raging in my heart. I couldn’t hide the struggle any longer. 

Being two years into our marriage, it was almost more than we could bear.  Our ministry directors at the time were gracious to us and after several months of prayer, processing, and counseling, the decision was made for my husband and I take a step back from ministry. It was a huge blow to both of us. We had communicated to our family and friends and supporters that THIS was what we were led by God to do. We *thought* it was right.  How could the Lord call us here and then allow such an intense struggle only to pull us out of ministry? We were left broken, defeated, shamed, and embarrassed. 

I felt like my 7-year-old son. We set out *thinking* we knew the ins and outs of ministry and with Jesus, could handle that intense environment. Looking back now that eight years have passed, I see so many areas where the Lord has grown me and taught me and shown me His loving-kindness.

Since leaving San Francisco, the Lord has opened the opportunity for me to step back into full-time ministry working as the Missions Director here at Community Bible Church. Stepping back into ministry has been exciting and fun.  I’ve loved being able to use my gifts again for the sake of the Gospel and to advance the Kingdom. But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t come with many challenges. There have been many challenges that have stirred my anxiety back up in a very real and similar way as it was when I lived in San Francisco. There have been times when I have cried out to God to release me. I have questioned our decision for me to step back into ministry.  But every single time, the Lord has kept me right where I am.  He has not let me go or allowed me to run. I have had to face the challenges and insecurities and pressure. 

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:4

This isn’t just my story. It’s all our story. Life is hard. We each have battles and struggles that we face daily. And through it all, the Lord wants to bring us to maturity so that we are not lacking anything.  He wants to grow and shape us into His image. He can’t always do that in easy times. It’s in the valley’s that we learn to lean in and trust Him fully. 

For many years, I didn’t understand why the Lord allowed me to “run” from San Francisco- why He allowed me to bow out of the hard and difficult season that was life there because I have found my time working at Community Bible to hold many similar parallels as to the season in San Francisco. But I see James 1:2-4 at work in my life… the trials that I faced in San Francisco and even those that I face today as the Missions Director are developing perseverance in my life. They are growing me to maturity in Christ. They are bringing me to a place where I am not lacking anything because everything that I need is in Christ. 

This is not something that I boast in of myself, but I boast about the work that Christ is doing in me. If you knew me intimately, you would know that I am a mess. It’s all Him. 

I don’t know what you may be going through, but I do pray today that you would consider it pure joy that whatever you are facing, whatever you are going through- may you know that the Lord is using that very thing to grow your faith and develop perseverance in your life. Don’t give up. Press into Him. Know that He doesn’t want you to lack anything. In Him, you have everything that you need for this life.  He is with you. His grace is there. He will see you through, just like He did for me in San Francisco and just like He is doing for me daily as the Missions Director at CBC. 

Consider it pure joy.