January 5, 2010


Written on January 1, 2010
This is the word I got from God this morning. It is myoneword for 2010.

(edit Jan 9: I think I may have left some people in the dark on this myoneword thing...check out myoneword.org, it's a New Years resolution-type deal started by the pastor at my church in North Carolina.)

I've been mulling over it since I woke up, thinking anxious thoughts of "what a great oneword!" and "this can't possibly be what God wants for me." But after seeing it in scripture this morning (Philippians 1:29), and realizing I've had 1 Corinthians 13:4 in the back of my mind for nearly a month, I can't get away from it. This is it. SUFFER.

On the surface, it's fairly unsurprising that this will be the theme of 2010 for me. The suffering has already started.

I am still looking back on the past three months, contemplating what God is trying to tell me through my physical health. I spent my first two months in Tanzania marveling and thanking God for keeping me healthy in times that, typically, travellers experience their worst sickness. I'd even hazard to say I was healthier those first two months in Africa than I was in a long time back in the US. Now, one month post-training, my defenses seemed to have been stripped from me. Granted, I could probably barely survive living alone in America, let alone a third-world country, but this has become my reality. In the five short weeks I've been at site, I've been physically healthy for maybe two, in total. And now I am facing a trip to South Africa for further medical treatment, and quite possibly a premature end to my Peace Corps service.

This has been a recent struggle. Not ten minutes ago, as I was walking back to my house, tired from the sun and spending time in town, I had conflicting thoughts. As my house came into view, I had a feeling of relief that my journey was coming to an end. But then I approached the front door and caught the smell of bat droppings pouring through the air. My mind immediately ran to Matthew 8:20, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." God was giving me a taste of that feeling. This doesn't feel like home at all. It is only serving as a reminder of my suffering.

I have no doubt that the spiritual realm is at war within me. That's something that hasn't changed since leaving the US. It only seems logical that as we suffer physically and mentally, spiritually we do the same. I see this in questions like "why is God letting this happen to me?" When our own expectations of what God wants and the reality of His own will come crashing together, we suffer spiritually. It is our shattered assumptions that produce doubt in our own abilities, and even in God's. While my physical health has been a cause for concern, I remain vigilant that God is the LORD of my days, every single one of them. There is purpose in my affliction, there is purpose in my trip to South Africa, and in the end if I am medically separated from the Peace Corps, there will be purpose in that as well.

My overall sense from getting this word this morning is that God wants to reduce me to nothing. He wants to take away all the things I'm still clinging to, the things I take foregranted, the things I think I need, until I become nothing. There is no room for "me" in this life. And as He does this, I will suffer. I will suffer physically, mentally, and spiritually. What it all comes down to is this: I must look to Jesus. He is the example. Without suffering, there is no redemption and no salvation.

I don't want to look too far ahead, but I think I might know what next year's oneword will be, because a beautiful thing happens after we suffer:
"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and SETTLE you."
~ 1 Peter 5:10