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Posts Tagged ‘loneliness’

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“Trapped. Hopeless. Depressed. That’s how I felt after four intense years of teaching English in an extremely sensitive, highly stressful area in northeast Asia.”

Thirteen pairs of eyes watched me intently as I began my story at this foreign English teachers’ retreat. Seated on metal folding chairs in a semi-circle were American teachers from a large university in Asia. They were all single women, ranging from age twenty-three to fifty-something. Several of these ladies had served in this country for five, ten, fifteen years. I could see the weariness in some of their eyes.

I had only just met these women. And I didn’t know their stories. Yet I felt such a strong connection to them. I wanted to fling my arms around them and say, ‘I know what it’s like! I’ve been there too!’

“Many times over those months and years in Asia, I wondered what on earth God was doing,” I continued. “I couldn’t see the results of all my work and investment in relationships. I struggled with homesickness, cultural barriers, serious conflicts with team members. And I felt so alone.”

“Yet time after time I felt the Father gently ask me, ‘Is it enough that I have asked you to come and you have obeyed? Even if you never understand? Even if you never see any results? Can you trust Me?’ ”

“Over and over again I had to surrender to Him, not knowing or understanding it all, but trusting that He would somehow, someday use it for good.”

I smiled. “You know, God didn’t have to show me why I experienced some of the hard things I went through.” I had to fumble for a tissue in my pocket before I could go on. “But here I am today, standing before all of you, sharing my story. And I feel He’s giving me just a tiny glimpse of His bigger purpose.”

At the end of the three-day retreat, one young woman came up to me with a broad smile. “I love how much you cry,” she said. “Thank you for being so real and vulnerable in sharing your story. It gives me permission to cry too.”

The author of Corinthians says that “…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort… comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (II Cor 1:3-4, NIV).

If through my tears I can encourage one woman that she is not alone, if I can remind her that God has a purpose in HER pain, if I can give her hope that she, too, can find help in her time of need, then it’s all worth it. Because HE is worth it.

Going Vertical!
MJ

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“I will go, I will go, I will go, Lord send me…” Sixteen thousand passionate college students sing in unison, arms outstretched. Individual faces are highlighted by the sweeping spotlights – some streaked with tears, some exuberant in worship, some quiet and reflective. As I stand in the midst of the massive crowd at the Urbana 2012 student missions conference, I’m struggling with an internal battle. Something inside me is holding me back.

“I’ve been here before, Lord,” I remind Him, as if He needs reminding. “And I remember what happened last time. I don’t think I’m ready to go there again.”

At Urbana 2000 I was a passionate and idealistic college student, ready to change the world. On the last day of the conference, I knelt down by my seat and told the Lord I was willing to go wherever He sent me. Within days after I returned home from Urbana 2000, I received an invitation to teach at a summer English camp in Shanghai, China. And that was the beginning of a new direction in my life. After graduate school I moved to East Asia for four years, where I taught English, learned some Mandarin, and made wonderful friends.

But I didn’t know some of the challenges I was signing up for. Missing engagements and weddings. Not being there for the births of my friends’ kids, or being able to watch them grow up. Unable to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I was surprised at how hard-hit I was at times by loneliness, isolation, and the waves of homesickness that hit me at unexpected times. The long hours of teaching English, the cultural and language barriers with teammates, the conflicts with roommates, and the constant turnover of coworkers over four years left me physically and emotionally dry. Eventually I reached a point of burnout and had to return to the US.

It was probably the lowest point in my life. I felt like a failure. I was depressed. I cried whenever anyone asked me about my time in Asia. And I definitely did NOT want to ever go back. But through the ministry of Fresh Start and other godly counseling and prayer, the Lord began to heal the hurts in my heart and show me how He wanted to use it for good.

And now, 12 years after I first attended the conference as a college student, I’m at Urbana again. As I listen to the thousands of students singing “I will go, I will go,” I feel jaded and cynical.

“…To the world, to the lost, to the poor and hungry…”

“They have no idea what they’re in for,” I laugh to myself. “I KNOW how hard it is. I know the loneliness, and the frustration, and feeling like you wanna quit and go home every day…” I can’t fake it anymore. I sit down and cover my face with my hands to hide the tears.

“What are you so afraid of?” I feel the question more than hear it. No audible voice, but I know God is talking to me. “God, I don’t think I can go through all that again. The loneliness, the depression…”

“Don’t remember the former things…” a snippet of a verse pops into my head. “…I am going to do a new thing.” A new thing. I exhale slowly and rub my face. A new thing. What amazing words. It doesn’t have to be like it was before. I learned from those experiences. I’m thankful for how God used that time in my life. But it doesn’t have to be the same. He’s going to do a new thing.

“…Take everything I am, I’m clay within Your hands…”

“God, I want to trust You,” I pray silently. “Even if I go through times of loneliness or discouragement, I know You will be with me. Help me not to fear. I know You are working all things for Your good. I choose to believe that You’re doing a new thing IN me!”

The cloud of fear slowly dissipates. I know there will still be hard times ahead. But like Peter, I take the step of faith out of the boat. Raising my arms I stand and sing with the crowd, “…I will go, I will go, send me!”

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

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