Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Best of All Possible Worlds

A card from one of my special ladies back home that "just happened" to arrive yesterday, and that I opened this morning after writing this post :)

I actually woke up ahead of my alarm today. These cool, foggy mornings we have been having here in Uganda recently always make me think of Arkansas and miss my “family” there.

On Monday, I was thinking of other things from back in my college days….and yesterday the thoughts kept tumbling around in my brain….so this morning I am sitting down to put “pen to paper” and break my blogging silence.

In the past 11 months that I have been affiliated with New Hope Uganda, the organization has gone through a lot. In my most recent newsletter, I wrote asking people for prayers as we here seem to be in the midst of spiritual warfare. Thank you to each one who responded back with words of encouragement! I really appreciated those.

Yesterday, we saw off one of our staff members. This year she has been battling cancer, and last month (two days after we lost a son to kidney failure) she was declared cancer free! But then other health concerns arose, and more tests revealed tumors….inoperable tumors, which are seriously affecting her quality of life. Yesterday she returned to Nairobi (Kenya), where she had previously received radiation, for further tests and care.

In my personal life, the past 18 months since graduation have rarely gone as I expected them to. Every season seems to bring another bend in the road, sometimes sending me on a trajectory I never expected. While I am so blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to minister here in this community, it was honestly never in my plans to move to Africa for most of 2014.

During these past months, there have been a myriad of frustrations and discouragements. While none of them come close to the struggles of so many of my brothers and sisters, it has still been often challenging to maintain a proper perspective—eyes fixed on Christ—in these times. Over and over, I have felt His call to trust Him and surrender my life to His plan….and maybe, just maybe I am “slowly by slowly” learning that lesson.

On Monday, it was one of my personal minor letdowns which got me to thinking. I was tempted to be in a complaining mood because of something which was not going as I had hoped/wished it might. And I just felt Paraclete speaking to my heart: “Esther, you need to trust God in this. To trust that what is happening is the best plan for all involved.”

It took me back to something a staff member had forwarded the Wednesday before. A week after my supervisor had fallen and broken her arm so seriously that she returned to her home in England for surgery, it was a day when I felt totally overwhelmed. I read this devotional and saw the truth in it, but I still allowed my human circumstances to dictate my feelings.

The devotional concluded:
Remember this: If any other condition had been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you could choose your lot, you would soon cry, "Lord, choose my heritage for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows." Be content with the things you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Busy self and proud impatience must be put down; it is not for them to choose, but for the Lord of Love!1

This idea of trusting the God who works ALL THINGS for His glory and our sanctification, our good has been a theme in my life for quite a while. But as I sat thinking and praying through it again on Monday, another comparison came to mind.

Twice in college I read Candide, a satirical tale written by Voltaire, an Enlightenment thinker of the 1700s. In it, Voltaire criticizes a view from that period that this is the “best of all possible worlds” by taking his characters through a ridiculous amount of challenges and suffering. The teacher in the group reiterates over and over that even in the face of everything, this still must be the best of all possible worlds. Even though Candide is a comedy because of the absurdity of what the characters go through, it felt so much more like a depressing tragedy to me, because on every page there are tales of woe.

But on Monday as I thought of trusting God in my petty little problems—and in the bigger, serious concerns facing others I know—that is the line that came back to me. That this is the “best of all possible worlds.” Certainly NOT because everything that happens is perfect! Far from it…there is much hurt and tragedy and brokenness in this world.

This is the best of all possible worlds, however, because of the HOPE that I and my fellow believers have! We serve a God who is an incarnational Redeemer—through Christ, He came down to us in our mess, and He won the victory!!!!!!!!!  And because He rose from the dead, defeating Satan, death, and sin, we can KNOW that He is able to work everything for good. Even the worst situation I can imagine He can take that and turn it for His glory.

Of course, this doesn’t make life easy. Yesterday, as we saw our sister off to Kenya there were tears in many hearts. We prayed and are praying for a miracle. Last month, as we laid our son to rest, there were sobs from his family and those close to him. We continue praying for his widowed mother and his young siblings, who have lost one who could have helped provide for them if he were still here. But through it all, we can choose to stake our confidence in our Redeeming, Victorious Father. And we can thank Him for everything that comes to pass in this, the best of all possible worlds.

1 Taken from Morning and Evening by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.