I wish God taught us most when things are going well! But God’s training school is more typically on the backside of the desert.
Photo Credit: Vu Bui (Creative Commons)
In 1987, the Lord spoke to Tony, my husband, and me, telling us both independently that we were to move to the States. We were naively excited about the opportunity, assuming that the Lord wanted to take the ministry we had with doctors, nurses and others in the caring professions in the UK and see it expand there, as it had into several other nations.
Six months later, we, our four young kids and twelve of the largest boxes the airline would allow, arrived in Austin, TX, where a church had offered us premises from which to run the ministry. Other than that, we knew no one. Meanwhile, the Lord got on the next plane back to the UK–or at least, that was what it felt like. We loved the States–the wide open spaces of Texas were so different to the concrete jungle of London’s East End. But no one wanted to employ two unlicensed physicians, we didn’t fit into the American church landscape–even the good church we were attending was so different to the non-religious and vibrant life we were accustomed to. Worst of all, God stopped speaking to us. It seemed the heavens were like brass.
We were in the desert. God’s training school for us.
Don’t get me wrong. We had good times too. But the sense of God’s blessing on our lives was gone, and after a few years, it felt as though this was going to be permanent.
For a few months, the house we had sold at a profit in the UK supported us. Then ministry travel overseas brought in just about enough money to survive. When that dried up, we had to make a living somehow, so we did the most menial jobs. We sold door-to-door and at flea-markets and eked out a survival with the assistance of our families. Not very dignified for two doctors, but oh, so good for us.
Seven or eight years into this, I had one brief experience that gave me hope. It was as though, for ten brief minutes, the Lord drew back the curtains, and I could see that all we were going through was for his glory and his purposes. But then the mists rolled in again. I lost the understanding of what he was doing, but the memory of that moment kept me going.
What did we learn?
- We learned that God is good all the time, even when it doesn’t feel like it and everything is going wrong
- We learned to get rid of the “Christian welfare” mentality–that somehow, because we’d been in “full-time ministry” we were entitled to support from others
- We learned that even if God never spoke to us again, or never used us again, we still had to trust him. (Like Job, even though he slay me, yet will I trust him)
- I had to learn that grumbling and complaining (and I did my fair share) just gives in to the enemy
- We came to understand that our motives for Christian ministry were very mixed–we had to die to the desire for limelight and significance
- We had to learn to be content in whatever circumstances we found ourselves
I wish we were faster learners, and even now I don’t know if we have fully learned the lessons! It took nine, very long, very painful years before God brought us out of the wilderness. Many times we were tempted to move back to England, where at least we could earn a decent living, but whether it was stubbornness or sheer stupidity, we never did so.
Finally God started speaking to us again.