For the past several months, when people asked me how I’m doing (really asked), I said that I’m doing well but that I’m deeply tired after 5 full years of ministry. For the first time in a while, I’m not doing a major summer urban or global program. Natalie and I also moved to a home in a quiet neighborhood, providing a little space between us and our ministry (we previously lived in an apartment across the street from Hopkins). I’ve been looking forward to this summer as a key time of rest and discernment about the future.
It’s no surprise to me that the Enemy, Satan, wishes to steal those things away from me this summer, and that he got started with his plan right away. In the past two weeks after moving, my Grandma died, Natalie and I experienced a painful personal event, we staffed Chapter Camp (one of the most demanding, albeit rewarding, weeks of our year), my index finger got infected from a thorn while gardening (sending me to multiple doctors three days in a row), and our house was broken into and robbed.
Any one of these incidents could easily spell victory for the Enemy. As he robs us of our possessions, time, money, health, and family, he could ultimately rob us of more important things – our peace, security, hope, joy, and trust in God. Yet I’m blessed to sit here and say that he has not succeeded, and I don’t expect that he will this summer. In the past, these circumstances would have sent me spiraling into a “dark cloud” of anger, despair, and bitterness. But God has been doing a work in my heart. I can see now that even this year Jesus has been preparing us for trials such as these, through the Simplify campaign in which we gave away many of our possessions, or by leading us to submit our tax return to the direction of our small group Bible study. Even if Satan throws other things our way, our peace, hope, and joy are hidden with Christ, and they can’t be touched. As I mentioned in my reflections on my Grandma, yes, we will experience pain and sadness and loss, but those things will pass and be overshadowed by the exceeding joy we have in Christ Jesus.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Common Benediction found in Jude 1:24-25)