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This afternoon, I was printing out some Scripture verse coloring pages and came across this verse again: Joshua 1:9 – “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It brought some bittersweet emotions, because just a few months ago we were talking about this passage in anticipation of a pretty big “GO” for our family – concerning our decision to move to Jos, Nigeria, where Ryan has been appointed as missionary faculty in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. And now … here it is April, and we haven’t gone anywhere yet.
The surface reasons are obvious: because of the current pandemic, nobody is going much of anywhere right now, let alone making a transatlantic move. We don’t even have our visas issued that we know of, let alone returned with our passports, and since the offices in New York are closed as we understand it, we don’t know when we might have that resolved. And as to whether there is a larger “reason” for our delay – we don’t know that either. Actually, I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to look for a reason, even though it’s kind of instinctual to do so. I appreciated this piece by N. T. Wright, suggesting the posture of lament in this pandemic situation, rather than one of demanding an explanation.
We do seek to trust God’s timing, and we do believe that no part of what is or isn’t happening is a surprise to Him. We know this: what feels to us like a lot of turmoil and confusion is not confusing or frustrating to our Father. So, we keep laying our fears and questions at His feet, seeking to trust that no matter what happens to our plans, His purposes will prevail. At the same time, I am not saying it is easy to feel at peace in our hearts, as we (and pretty much everyone else in the world right now) live with all kinds of day-to-day unknowns, and try to find some kind of “normal” (is that too ambitious? ha!) in our house partly emptied of various belongings and furnishings, and with half-packed boxes in nearly every room. It’s awkward, strange, and sometimes just plain difficult.
So what about seeing that Bible verse again today was sweet? The word “wherever.” God has not promised to only walk us through the big hard moves, but to be with us during the ones that feel small and inconsequential too – yes, even moving from the living room couch to the back porch step. As I lean in to that promise, I am thankful for voices like Emily P. Freeman, helping to name and acknowledge what is hard about this time and these circumstances, but also giving hope in the reality that God is present even here, even now, and even into an unknown future. Listen to her wise and comforting words here: The Next Right Thing. Another short listen that speaks to my anxious heart is here at The Giving Up Normal podcast; look for episode 36 “Things to Remember In the Wilderness.”
I’ll echo Emily’s closing words here, from Psalm 31:14-15 – “But as for me, I trust in you O Lord; I say ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”