New Perspective

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” -Mother Teresa

I used to wrestle a lot with this quote and the idea that God only gives us things He knows we can handle. When I was in high school, I saw a lot of destruction around me, but I never was at the center of destruction, more of a bystander, if you will. Seeing my friends broken truly broke my heart. I always wondered why bad things would happen to these wonderful friends: being victims of abuse, addiction, depression, among other tragic happenings.

When I first read the above quote, I thought about another book I read a few years ago and I quote: “there are no second causes even the most cruel and unjust things, that God has permitted them as opportunities for us to react to them in such a way that our Lord is able to produce in us His lovely character.” (Hinds’ Feet on High Places, 12) I then meshed the two quotes together because they seem to go hand in hand and came out with this: God does not give us anything we cannot handle and allows bad things to happen (even to the most wonderful people) so we can react in a way that produces His lovely character. I thought about whether I fit into both of these quotes and became a complete mess.

I’ve had an incredible life so far. Filled with support from family and friends, opportunities galore, abilities to adventure and so much more. I’ve been very blessed and really haven’t gone through an extremely difficult season of life, well, not yet at least. I have watched and felt a lot of suffering within the lives of the closest people around me over the last four years, which is probably the largest extent of pain I have had in my life, and it’s nothing in comparison to what has happened to those friends. The suffering doesn’t end with my friends either; people all over the world are suffering from a smorgasbord of oppressions.

For a while I would think about how much I have been given and really was disgusted with myself for what I have (thus the complete mess of Caroline). Don’t get me wrong, my life has had hard moments, but in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t been extremely difficult. I thought about how God doesn’t give us things we can’t handle and I wondered why nothing tragic had happened to me. Does God think I am too weak to have any tragic moments in my life? No. Is he just waiting to put his thumb down on me in some drastic way that ‘tests’ me? Absolutely not.

God doesn’t give anyone anything they cannot handle and with all that He has given me, I believe that He expects even more from me. For example, when I returned home from my trip to Zambia, I made a promise to God to learn as much as possible in the next four years of college and work as hard as I can during that time. I was really set on fire by the many students my age in Zambia, for they all had great dreams of becoming doctors and professors, but the likelihood of even one of them being able to do that is very slim. This promise I’ve made is for myself but ultimately for those friends. God has shown me great love from family and friends and it is my responsibility to not only reciprocate it, but also share it with those whom have never known love or overtime lost site of what it means to be loved.

I know that the Lord trusts me and has given me this life because He understands I can handle it. Everything could change in a day and I could lose everything or suffer unimaginably, but I know in those moments, there will be a community of people willing to hold me tight and love me in my suffering and brokenness just as God had me hold them tight in their seasons of suffering and brokenness as it says to do so in Romans 12:15. Until then, I will continue my studies and learn as much as I can so that some day I can get back to Zambia. As God provides for me, I will give my all to Him. In seasons of drought, I will give my all to Him.

Whatever season of life you are going through right now, know that God has had this planned out from the very beginning. What resilience it is to know that God has allowed for all things to happen- good and bad, joy-filled, and tragic! God uses each season of life to shape us so when you stumble upon the next season of life you will be stronger, wiser and can react to it in ways that continue to produce God’s lovely character.

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Best Self.

This last Sunday, I was sitting with a few friends talking about the world. At one point we got on the topic of Africa and Lauren’s response was “There must be something in the water there, because everyone always wants to go back!” I thought on that for a few minutes, because when I think about my trip to Africa, I was sent through every sort of emotion, yet I never put myself down (which I often do) nor did I want to leave the Samfya community that I became a part of(which again, I have that tendency to do). I had times of weakness, but God was able as he always is, and gave me strength. Quite often, I have thoughts about my trip, sometimes negative, where I ask myself “Where is that loving girl who just wanted to hear the stories of others and make kids laugh?” “Am I even that same person?” “Does that girl even exist?” So I responded to Lauren by saying, “It’s like I left the best version of myself there.”

I’m not sure that is entirely true, but I’m an introvert when it comes to my thoughts and I believe me when I say I had thought about this independently for a long time before allowing myself to be vulnerable and share that with others. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my experiences in Samfya and I’m okay with that. The reason I’m not sure it’s an entirely true statement is because I do feel as though I am able to be the best version of myself here, it just takes more work and less distractions.

When I have meaningful conversation with people I love(or even don’t love for that matter-because this makes me love them), listen to the stories of others, and tutor at Martin Luther King CLC I do feel like I am the best version of myself; the version of myself that God has intended to use for His glory. I am suffocated by worldly distractions and a culture that tells me (one) that I’m supposed to look and act a specific way and (two) that I’m supposed to be on this journey searching for who I am. I have been shaped to be unshaped.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we learn that for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. I’m confident God used this small fraction of a season, this mission trip, as a gateway for me to learn about myself. It was a way for God to reveal to me the best parts of myself and how they were able to serve and glorify His name.

To the girl who yelled ‘chau-nau-lei!’ at the top of her lungs while digging the well, who danced and laughed with the children of Samfya even though she was exhausted, who spoke as much french she knew with a refugee from the Congo, who giggled and shared stories of boys with the young women at Samfya High School, who didn’t let the inability to communicate well get in the way of her ability to communicate, who spoke to an entire village, who’s heart broke for the lost and poor in spirit in the township in South Africa, who loved there and continues to love: God isn’t done revealing Himself to you.

Our God is a sovereign, loving God.

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