"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
It is crazy how you can hear a verse over and over throughout your life, but then when you hear at a time you REALLY need it, it washes over you with a newness and comfort that you have never felt before. In one week (and three days) I will be leaving for Africa for my third time. I remember the first time I even looked into trips. I remember thinking "Can I just go to Africa? I am a poor, middle class, Texas teacher… I can't just pick up and go to Africa, can I?" But the Lord showed me that I could. And little did I know that all those years ago when He was showing me what trust and faith looked like that He would be preparing me for this day 3 years later.
I have always grown up in church and was shown what it looked like to trust and have faith in the Lord. I must admit, there are many times where my words and the posture of my heart didn't (and still don't) match up. I know what to say. I know how to act. I know what the "good Christian response" would be. Yes, I fully believe in the Lord. Yes, I completely trust in His promises and will for my life. Yes, I whole heartedly would lay everything down at His feet and follow Him wherever He called me. However, this trip has called for more than I have usually had to sacrifice….
This trip my comfort has been challenged. My faith has been challenged. And even my initial peace was challenged. You see, I am ALWAYS attacked before I leave for Africa. I fully believe that Satan tries to trip me up and cause me to stumble, doubt and worry. My first trip it was the fear of unknown. People around me were nervous and that in turn caused a lot of anxiousness in me. Next, it was financial and I didn't receive my money until the very end. This time he struck me with fear. Worry. Safety issues. The what-ifs consumed my thoughts and I was almost paralyzed with anxiety. Thankfully our God is a good, sovereign God that promises me that He will "never leave me or forsake me." And He hasn't. I have had to be on my knees… on my face…. completely abandoned to His will and He has comforted and tended to my heart in a way that He doesn't have to.
He has taken the worry that I was consumed with away and has replaced it with a beautiful peace that surpasses all understanding on my part. He has shown me sweet glimpses of my purpose and what He needs for me to do. He needs for me to love. He needs for me to trust. He needs for me to unclench the things that scare me… having my family worry, the unknown, what life looks like when I get back… and allow Him to be in control. I have had to trust more than I have ever trusted before and because of that there is a freedom in my spirit that cannot be explained. There is a realization that the "trust" I have had for years… was just a surface level circumstance. This is causing deep, uninhibited faith in the Lord.
So now Satan is moving on to something else… my head feels like it is going to explode, I cannot breath out of my nose and my ears are so stopped up I feel unbalanced. But I will combat this with truth and prayer and scripture like I have done before and Jesus will prevail. Because here is the good news… we win. Good trumps evil. Satan loses. God-infinity: Satan zero. So I may be uncomfortable for a small period of time but all of it will be worth it when I stand before our faultless, glorious, perfect Savior and hear Him say, "Stephanie…. well done my good and faithful servant. In you, I am pleased." Selah.