To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

These past few weeks I’ve found myself up against a new mental and emotional challenge: wrestling with the reality of my own mortality. I’ve always known that I am mortal, but I’ve never put much thought towards what would happen if I were to die in the near future.

Honestly, the thought of my own death is not overly frightening, because, when I die, I get to enter the realm of no suffering with Jesus forever! And while I definitely deeply value my life, and have no desire to die now, if I did, I would be ok. However, I worry about what would happen to those I love if something were to happen to me. At first glance that seems selfless, but the truth is that it is an incredibly selfish thought. If I die, I don’t have to deal with the consequences of my death here on earth, but my loved ones do.

I know these are things no one wants to think about, but lately they’ve been running circles in my mind. Here’s the thing: I know Nepal is dangerous. But when people remind me of the dangers, I want to remind them that nowhere is risk-free, and that humans are terrible evaluators of potential risk. For instance, driving is continually proven to be risky, and yet many of us continue to get behind the wheel on a daily basis.

I do, however, understand why people have been increasingly concerned for my safety in Nepal. In the wake of the recent earthquakes, the dangers in Nepal have become much more visible, both to me, and to those I love. The risks simply aren’t as abstract as they used to be, and I find myself wondering what would happen if something were to happen to me in Nepal and I didn’t return to the States.

But then I realize that that is the voice of Satan tempting me to be afraid. Satan knows just as well as I do that Nepal is exactly where I’m supposed to be this summer, and he’s doing everything he can to keep me away. Fears about my own death are just his latest ploy, but guess what Satan, it’s not going to work!

So for those of you who are worried about my security in Nepal, please don’t be. While I can’t guarantee my safety, I do promise to not be reckless, and I deeply trust both Tiny Hands (the organization planning my trip) and Jesus. I also don’t know the last time I’ve felt so at peace with any decision I’ve made. In the words of my friend Marybeth, “don’t let anyone put a question mark where God has put a period.” I can say with complete confidence that I belong in Nepal this summer!

I know it’s a lot to ask you to release me to go. I truly appreciate your concern for me, and don’t know how to express all the gratitude I feel for your support, but I do have one request: when you feel anxious about my upcoming trip, ask God to help you trust Him. Ultimately I know that I will continue to be safe and secure (in soul if not also in body) in the presence of God!

To Live Is Christ

Where is God?

I want to clarify something from the end of my last post. I did not say God loves the people of Nepal in an attempt to cover up or explain away the suffering they have endured. I did not experience what they experienced, and I do not for a minute pretend to have answers to all the why questions. Why did the earthquake happen? Why would a loving God allow such suffering? Why Nepal? Why now? I don’t know. But I do know that God loves every single person that walks the earth, including each person affected by this earthquake.

Let me get on my soapbox for a minute. Sometimes Christians get this funny idea that following God means they won’t have to suffer. That is completely unbiblical! In John 16:33 Jesus says, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” And I could go on. Suffering is part of the human experience, and Christians are not exempt.

However, you may have noticed that while all of these verses promise suffering, the suffering is infused with hope. Jesus has overcome the world, His glory will be revealed, and the struggle is not the end of the story. Revelation 21:4 carries a beautiful picture of what will come at the end of the story. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Ok, now back to what I was saying before I got onto my soapbox. The reality of hope and better things to come does not negate the pain that the people of Nepal are currently feeling. When terrible things happen to the people I love, the question that always rises up within me is: where is God in this mess? The best peace I have been able to make with that question is that He is weeping. Sometimes He is comforting and mending and restoring, but ultimately, He is weeping with His children. In a book I recently read called The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge, (side note – I would highly recommend it!) Sarah paints an image of God that I had never thought about before. She calls God the Great Physician, and explains that, in her suffering, “He was the infinitely loving, infinitely wise parent standing against the Procedure Room wall of life, watching me suffer as tears welled up in His eyes. He was waiting for the moment when the trial had finished its work in my life, ready to pick me up the second it was done and carry me home.”

So yet again, I’ll leave you with a song.

When the Ground Beneath You Quakes…

First off, I want to let you all know that I am still going to Nepal from June 9th through July 24th, but my trip itinerary will look very different from what we had originally planned. While I don’t yet know the nitty gritty of what that means, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wants me to be in Nepal this summer, and I am overwhelmingly grateful that I still get to visit this land that has completely captured my heart.

Secondly, I am done with my fourth semester of undergrad (hallelujah!) and now have as much college behind me as I do before me (how did that happen?) It was my hardest semester yet, but I made it through alive, and now I get to spend the next month at home, processing the last season and preparing for the next.

There have been many times throughout these past two weeks when I’ve thought, “I should really write a blog about this” but try as I might, I can’t seem to get the words right. It’s not so much a lack of words as it is an overabundance, so this will probably turn into more than one blog post. I hope you don’t mind. There’s just so much I want to share with you.

On Wednesday April 15th at 8PM, my body was sitting in evening chapel, but my brain was running through the million and a half things I still needed to complete later that evening. Our campus pastor, Rusty, was scheduled to speak, but instead of giving a sermon, he decided to have an extended time of worship through song, and an opportunity for students to pray with the campus pastors. I love opportunities to pray with others, so when he opened up the prayer time, I walked down the auditorium aisle and asked him to pray for me. All semester my prayer requests had been for strength and endurance to get through this incredibly difficult season of life, but this time, something in me had shifted. I asked Rusty to pray for the transition that was about to happen in my life. It was an odd request considering I still had three weeks of the semester to complete, and was nowhere near ready to even think about being at home and preparing for Nepal. But I couldn’t deny the still small voice of God saying that it was transition time. Something deep inside of me knew that I had finally emerged, victorious, from the dark pit I was in for the first thirteen weeks of the semester, but that the struggle wasn’t over… it was just changing. I know that sounds vague, but at that point in time it was all I knew with any clarity.

On Thursday April 23rd at 10PM, I was following my normal routine of thinking through scenarios of what could potentially happen while I’m in Nepal while I got ready for bed. Suddenly I thought, “What if there’s a massive earthquake while I’m there?” I knew that Nepal rests on a fault line (the Himalayas are not in Nepal by random chance) but the idea of a big earthquake seemed to come out of nowhere. I played out the scenario in my mind, and then moved on, never dreaming how real my imaginings were about to become.

On Saturday April 25th at 8AM, I woke up to go on a run with my roommate Kaylee. When I checked my phone, I had two texts from friends asking if I had heard about the earthquake in Nepal. As I pulled up the news on my laptop, I began to physically shake. I was in shock.

On Saturday April 25th at noon, Nepal time, (11:15PM on Friday, Oregon time) a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the beautiful country of Nepal.

When I found out about the earthquake, a million questions raced through my mind, but the one that kept resurfacing was: did God warn me about the earthquake before it happened?

All day I turned that question over and over in my mind. On one hand, imagining an earthquake the day before it happened was difficult to explain through random chance. On the other hand, there was no way I could’ve articulated when (or even if) the earthquake was going to happen when the thought first crossed my mind on Thursday night.

I finally asked my roommate Rebecca if she thought God had warned me about the earthquake, and she replied, “I think God was preparing you for the earthquake.” Suddenly all the pieces clicked into place. Ten days prior to the earthquake God had help me enter a season of transition. At the time it didn’t make sense to think about my trip to Nepal when I still had schoolwork to complete, but then the earthquake hit… before the semester was over… and suddenly the transition made so much sense. Then, twenty-four hours before the earthquake, God put it on my radar in order to help me absorb the news when it actually became a reality.

This is where I try to put words to the depths of the Father’s love for me. You see, I am an obsessive planner. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t do well with sudden changes of plans. It’s something I’m continually working on because I know that, no matter what happens, God is trustworthy, and has a good plan for my life. However, God knows that this is still an area of weakness in my life, so, in His great love for me, He equipped me to handle this news with more trust in Him than I dreamed possible.

So for all of you who feel like the earth beneath you is shaking, I want to encourage you to press into God’s love. He knows your needs before you even have the words to articulate them. I’ll leave you with a hymn and a promise: God loves you. If I were in Nepal right now, it’s the message I would be telling every man, woman, and child, and it’s as true for you as it is for them.

God loves you,
God loves you,
God loves you!