Our Faithful God
At the time of this writing, I’m sitting in an airplane and the flight attendant has just collected my tray of aviation-style chicken and rice. The Skymap screen in front of me tells me we are passing over Pueblo, CO en route back to our Asian home.
The last few weeks spent in the US with family-by-blood and family-by-his-blood have been good ones, filled with joyful memories and soul-nourishing encouragement. The immediate road ahead of us is a daunting one, but I see no way around it. The path of obedience, for us at this moment in time, cuts through many airports and transitions.
As we’ve shared personally with many of you over the past few weeks, our upcoming move to Japan has brought equal parts anxiety and excitement. But mostly anxiety. The challenge of putting down new roots when our tree was already firmly planted looms large. Realism tells us that learning another new language will not be easy or glamorous. Encouraging our children (and ourselves) to “put themselves out there” to develop friendships in a foreign context is a big ask. Raising a family of seven in the most expensive country in the world feels humbling and uncomfortable. Finding ways to communicate the love and truth of Christ in a godless country is heavy.
But I’m not listing off this collection of “hards” just for the sake of stirring up your pity. I list them precisely because in staring down these mountains of difficulty, we have seen them dwarfed by the reality of God’s faithfulness to us. Over the last six months as we have processed the implications of this move (and wanted to bail out!) we have felt ourselves being undergirded by his promises. Each doubt, each worry, each step to turn back has been met with undeniable clarity and strength from his word. Just a few moments ago as I was reading through Psalms, I came upon this verse that summarizes well the struggle of our hearts in recent days:
When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
I could fill up your screen with vivid examples of God’s clear leading and gentle shove toward the road of obedience, but I’ll assume that you don’t need me to belabor the point.
Instead, I’ll leave you, my family-by-his-blood, with these two takeaways:
First, as commanded by God throughout the scriptures, I want to encourage my church family by telling of his wondrous works (Psalm 105:2). I want you to know and experience in a small way the ways God has been a Good Shepherd to us, the ways he has been mightier than the waves of the ocean, the ways he has been ever-present and patient with our doubts. I want to use my best language and most compelling descriptions because I want our story to stir you to greater trust in him when it’s your turn to walk a hard, sometimes lonely, road of obedience. When we boast of his faithfulness to one another in times of difficulty, our confidence in who he is grows ever more unshakeable. God really and truly, absolutely and always, is faithful.
Second, by far the primary way God has shepherded us, held us up, and cheered our soul has been through the daily spiritual food of his word. I don’t mean just 5 minutes a day and then off to work. I’m talking morning and night, big chunks of reading, small chunks of slow reading, discussion together in our family, memorizing it, singing it, praying it. All those things.
I say this not to boast in ourselves; that would be as ridiculous as one of the Israelites walking out of his tent, gathering his manna and then bragging about how much he collected to his neighbor. His neighbor would be like, “Yeah, of course! Anyone could do that. If you just step outside your tent, you’re going to get the manna!” Nothing special about what I’m gathering, but a lot of special in what comes down freely, for all who will get out of their tents and gather.
Saturating (yes, saturating) ourselves in the transforming culture of his word daily will put us directly in the path of his grace and truth. John Piper famously said, “Do you want to hear God speak? Read your Bible out loud.” If we really believe that God speaks to us through his word, how does it so easily get pushed to the fringes of our daily agenda? I’ve been there many times, so there’s no condemnation in my voice on this point! And I recognize that sometimes we are faithful to be reading and we seem to get nothing out of it for a season. But hear the call, friends. Make your time in the word a real and consistent priority and just see if he doesn’t show up and satisfy your soul in ways you’ve always hoped.
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? ~Psalm 89:8