by Sara Martin
After 16 hours on a plane, our bodies were convinced that is was three in the morning. But when we arrived to Beijing it was three in the afternoon on November 1st. We struggled through customs with our ten bags, three carry-ons, two backpacks, one car seat, one stroller, and one three month old. At that moment the three years of planning and dreaming of living in China was becoming a reality. Our final destination of Changchun greeted us with its infamous cold wind. As the wind hit our face, the words of many who experienced what were doing came to mind. “This first year will be hard.” A year later can tell you that it was, but at that time I couldn’t have told you all the different ways or levels of intensity in which those difficulties would come.
I don’t see the benefit of rehashing every single hardship. Nor discussing the reason behind every tear. That wouldn’t be an accurate depiction of our first year either. The sweet gifts intertwined with those hardships are just as much part of the story. The Lord has renewed my love for His word and has renewed my confidence in His care for His saints. We have seen the Lord provide and answer many prayers. We have a space we can call home and host bible studies. We have friends in our city that love us and help us to adjust to life here. We have an amazing care taker who we trust to watch Avery while we are learning Chinese. I have patient language coaches that have helped me enjoy a language that I thought I could never enjoy. And on top of that we have the blessing of a growing family. Throughout the list of God’s goodness in our lives, He has also graciously pointed out the areas of my unbelief.
My sister-in-law recently recommended a sermon series called “Battling Unbelief”. The Lord used John Piper to painfully uncover to the wound that had been festering inside of me. The culprit of my misery was my belief that God alone couldn’t make me happy. My “good news” required a healthy lifestyle with the right amount of sleep. Nutritious and delicious food that I needed to make sure my family consumed at every meal. Fulfilling relationships with loved ones and respect and admiration from people far and near. A well behaved child with an amazing routine that served my schedule. A conflict-free marriage and a ministry that didn’t require work or sacrifice. If and only if these things happened, could I have joy and believe that God was for me. As I write these things out I can’t help to shake my head at how ridiculous it sounds. But it was as clear as the sun breaking through the dawn, though embarassing to admit. It was what my soul needed to confess to begin to find true rest and happiness.
Maybe you can relate to my list or maybe you could do without some of them. Maybe other things come to mind. But the things I listed above are not sins in themselves. But to demand these things; to believe the lie that they can provide something that God can’t, that is sin. I don’t have it figured out by any means, I still have to daily silence the “gospel” that my flesh prefers. This sermon series is teaching me that faith is not merely looking back at what Jesus did. But it’s banking on the hope of what Jesus promised because he died for our sins and rose again.
Belief that glorifies God is faith that is more future-oriented than I realized. So if I can put into practice what I’ve been learning, this means my joy and my faith doesn’t have to be based on what was done or not done. The times where we’ve experienced uninterrupted sleep or were woken up in the middle of night multiple times by Avery’s crying. The moments we thrived or failed, ate McDonald’s or ate vegetables. The times we persevered or felt discouraged, had great fellowship or felt completely alone. The times we felt brave or lived in fear. The times Philip and I felt we could take on the world or felt like sin had done it’s job to separate us. Today and tomorrow and the day after that, we are being made into the image of our Savior. This means my faith is based on the ongoing work of Jesus and the promise that he will one day finish what He started. Standing before Him completely holy and fully satisfied. I look forward to the day when we reflect Jesus without the presence of sin. Without the constant battles of unbelief that lead me to run to false joys of this world. So with this in mind, no matter what season you are in or the circumstance you are facing, let us run to the author and perfecter of our faith.