Our current home is in Myrskylä, a village with less than 2000 inhabitants in the Finnish countryside. The extent to which I’m loving this place keeps surprising me, for just a couple of years back I wouldn’t have chosen this lifestyle. With my background in anthropology and development studies, I’d rather have imagined to end up in a small community somewhere far, but not in my home country. We got this place two years ago as a base for vacations and the time between our work periods abroad. However, here we are – and it’s great.
Last year, our plans were still looking different. Me, my husband and our two small boys had just re-arrived in Ethiopia, and we were excitedly looking forward to moving from the capital to a remote town for the next few years. However, on the same week as our planned move, the civil war suddenly spread out from the north, approaching the capital. So instead, we packed our stuff and flew back home, once again.
It’s been 11 months since our second evacuation from Ethiopia. The abrupt change of plans was hard for me to swallow – not to mention how bad I felt for the suffering people in the country. Overall, the two unplanned returns made me doubt whether I’d be fit for a third try. It took me long to put my pieces together and to embrace reality, as we decided to stay in our home country for the moment.
I believe in the God of the Bible, who is good and who loves me sacrificially and unconditionally. Yet, this doesn’t make me immune to the feelings of fear, anxiety and even depression. There have been times when I’ve been feeling useless, fearing my life will turn into a complete failure. So far in my life, I’ve seen many sleepless nights, experienced moments of grinding anger and desolate grieve, and shed lots of tears.
At the same time I do have God to shout my feelings to – even if it didn’t necessarily always feel like anyone was listening. But God is real and He sees me and listens to me, at all times. As a Christian believer I also have access to the bigger picture I call here the Big Story: Jesus, the son of God, suffered on the cross, died for my sins and raise from the dead so that I could have eternal life in Him. God is in control, and He is able to use the hard things in my life to serve for a purpose even if I might not yet understand it:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
Even if things don’t work out as I would have wished them to, with God I can avoid ending up bitter. Instead, if I hang in there choosing to trust God rather than my own impulses or some counterfeit gods, the discomfort will increase hope:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
Life can be hard – but it’s not random. There are adversities, but there is also God’s promise of hope and justice. The power of sin is devastating, and we get to experience pain, wars, global warming, illnesses, violence and eventually death. Yet, there is the Big Story of God’s redemption and invincible love, accessible through Jesus’s sacrifice for those who believe. Joining in the Big Story through faith in Jesus means nothing can separate you from God’s love anymore. You become free – free from condemnation and being a slave to sin, and free to fulfill your purpose as defined by your Creator. It means receiving the Holy Spirit and getting a taste of the abundant life, light and love that characterize eternity with Jesus.
I said “yes” to Jesus about 11 years ago. Now, the identity of being the beloved daughter of my heavenly Father through Jesus is the most fundamental thing about myself. It’s valid under all circumstances, regardless whether I’m doing well or feeling worthy of God’s love or not. Yet, it’s sometimes hard to allow this truth to sink in. After our second evacuation I was struggling to trust God really loves me the way I am. I was assuming Jesus was expecting me somewhere else rather than wanting to come and meet me where I was. It’s been a journey to grasp He really forgives my sins and is actually using my life for His ends, proactively wanting my best despite (or even through!) my wounds and weaknesses.
The recent twists and turns of our story have ended up showing how little I actually understand about God’s grace and love – and that I want to dive deeper! I can’t boast with my faith, and I’m a broken person in many ways. However, I’ve gotten to accept a bit more my pains and struggles, because through them God is helping me to grow in faith and as a person, pulling me closer to Himself. This is great, for as long as I stay with God, I’m on track in His plan. It’s good to know He sees the big picture and is guiding us accordingly. Although we keep dreaming about ministry abroad, for the very moment, we know God wants us to be right here.
PS. All sorts of unexpected blessings have started to pour on our life here. Firstly, being surrounded by nature rather than noise and a constructed landscape and having a less hurried pace of living has been having a heeling effect on my psyche. Relatedly, there has been space for unseen creativity – not to mention the benefits of raising our kids in a peaceful place like this. Finally, it’s been wonderful to get to know to the locals and discover the culture of greeting strangers on the streets. A smile does always good 🙂
Here’s some evidence of the first point: