Since the last time I wrote, it feels like the world’s storms have only grown stronger and more chaotic. There are more wars in the news. There are cyclones at home in Mozambique, there is spiritual shaking and tremendous fear in many lands. For all these reasons it is even more important for us to come together and affirm what the church has always believed:
God, we trust you! You are Lord over all storms. You will meet us amid the wind and the waves. Even when loved ones are ill and pass away, even when the earth trembles, even in war and famine and flood — you are above all these things!
Along with many of my friends, lately I have often felt like the disciples in Matthew 8 — we have gone on a sea voyage and found ourselves in a tempest so fierce that we can’t help but experience fear. Fear is human, but we cannot let ourselves forget that Jesus is also in the boat. If we want to find calm, we have to remind ourselves over and over again of the one who is with us. We can’t remember too often. We can’t pray too much. Every day, you can find peace with him, and I urge you to make the time for this. If you ask him to be with you in the boat and are willing to trust his presence above all else, he will be there. He will never leave you.
Spring will come again. The seasons shift. It will not be winter forever. It is true that we would never have asked for seasons of suffering or trauma or doubt. Still Jesus tells us, “Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died” (John 12:24 TPT). Whatever the enemy intends for evil in these days, God is able to turn into good for all those who love him. Take heart. Let your roots grow deeper. The good harvest that is coming will not be denied.
Some readers will be familiar with our friend Felizardo in Mozambique, who was tortured and burned by terrorists near our home in the north of Mozambique. For a time, bleeding and alone, he lost his four-year-old daughter. Death was very close. In the natural, it did not look like there was any way for good to come from such a horror. The pain seemed senseless, impossible to fathom. But even in that terrible storm, Jesus was in the boat with him. He was able to be reunited with his daughter, a joy I will never forget. His scars remain with him, but in recent weeks he was able to undergo another corrective surgery to help restore more of his mobility. Truly the life of Jesus shines through him brighter than ever. He is now part of our logistics team, helping to distribute food and supplies to the many thousands of internally displaced people in our region. His compassion is as deep as his suffering has been. The life that causes spring to come again for Felizardo is from above, and we know that it will last forever.
I want to encourage you to ask the Lord how you can comfort your neighbors when the boat you are all in together is tossed by some violent storm. How can you make Jesus visible to those around you? How is he asking you to participate? How can you respond in the face of great difficulties? What does it actually look like to comfort others? Even if it is very small, it is enough to give what you can. Allow what you endure to deepen your compassion. Remember 2 Corinthians 4:1: “Now, it’s because of God’s mercy that we have been entrusted with the privilege of this new covenant ministry. And we will not quit or faint with weariness” (TPT).
Just recently, when visiting America, I burned my own hand quite badly in a kitchen accident. I had to go to the burn center repeatedly. The shock was tremendous. The burn was so deep that at first there was little pain because the nerves were seared. As the weeks went on it was often excruciating. Yet I kept thinking of many other awful burns I have seen, often in places with almost no medical care, and I felt the deepest gratitude for my doctors, nurses, and other caretakers. I blessed them with all my heart. Wherever you are, if you have true gratitude for people I believe that such blessings can linger and lift the atmosphere in a way that transcends words.
Felizardo, who almost died from his wounds at the hands of evil men, could have chosen to respond with rage. He did not have all the modern care that I had. His trauma was inflicted by the wicked. Instead he has devoted himself to bringing love and encouragement to everyone around him. I now consider him one of the greatest inspirations I have ever met. I am grateful for him too.
Suffering is very real, but there is a joy beyond all suffering to focus on — persevere, remind one another of your hope always, and remember that “I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us” (Romans 8:18 TPT).