Victory in Spite of Fear

Ninety days ago, I was having a bad day. With all the details and all the major decisions being made for our international move to Togo, there were a number of unresolved issues still thumping around in my head. Fear levels were high, and faith levels were low.

I decided to take a risk. Without any certainty of how it would all come together, I stood on my knowledge that God is always faithful, and that the one who has called us to go back to Africa would arrange all the details to get us there. I made a declaration over my fear.

“I only need to know that my God WILL NOT FAIL ME. I don’t know when He will do it. I don’t know how He will do it. But I know He will do it, because He has promised to meet all my needs and He is ultimately and undeniably trustworthy.”

(If you missed that one, you might want to backtrack and read about it here.)

Forty-five days ago, the picture was still blurry and I was still plagued with fear. In a moment both significant and amusing, God spoke to me through a lesser-known Old Testament story, and a bit of sarcasm.  I was reminded that God’s arm was not too short to meet my needs. Again, I stood not on my feelings or my lack of faith, but on what I know.

(You should probably catch that one here too, for the full picture.)

Today marks 90 days. I am actually writing this from the airport as we wait to board our flight to Togo. Normally I’d be completely absorbed in a novel right about now, but this is important. I declared God would answer my prayers and I would have a story to tell. He has and I do. So please overlook both the length of this post and any errors. I need you to hear this story.

  1. Bank accounts and 52-card pickup

    To revisit a metaphor I used in the original post, the finances of a missionary getting ready to move overseas are like a toddler playing 52-card pickup. We buy stuff we have to have, such as 220v appliances, and enough printer ink to last a few years, with money we don’t have, in anticipation of selling things we do have but soon won’t need. This has happened every time we have transitioned overseas. The normal budget is out the window and suddenly we aren’t batting an eye at spending several hundred dollars in one day. For someone who keeps a pretty tight rein on the checkbook, this can be sickening.All I can say is that at every moment we needed money, we had money. Some things sold quickly—our car sold in a private sale at full value four hours after we posted it on Craigslist. Other things took a little longer—Phil had a table saw that just didn’t seem to find the right buyer. But eventually we got there.Today we are leaving for the field with way more luggage than we like to travel with. We have a shipment of nine pallets leaving Missouri in a couple weeks. We have everything we need, and enough money in our bank account for our daily bread. God took a game of 52-card pickup and made it more magical than watching an illusionist do a card trick. Except it wasn’t a trick. My God is faithful, and He isn’t poor. He knew what He was doing, even when my faith wasn’t strong enough to trust Him.

    Five of the nine pallets packed for shipment

    Five of the nine pallets packed for shipment

  2. Our houseAt the time of my original post, we were still trying to sell the house. It had been on the market off and on for a year, with varying amounts of activity depending on the season. We adjusted the price as much as we could. At that point, I was getting very worried. Would we be saddled with a mortgage payment our overseas compensation wouldn’t cover? Would we be forced to short sell, or worse, be foreclosed? These were very real fears.But God was still in control. After our neighbors put their house on the market and sold it in nine days, we decided to consider keeping ours and using it as a rental.The same week that we listed it for rent with a property manager, inquiries about the house skyrocketed. It took a few weeks, but we did get a tenant in. In fact, we got a tenant who, in exchange for a shorter lease term, is paying us above our asking price.

    Another answer to prayer in a completely unexpected way. I wonder if God was watching me worry and thinking “just wait.”

    Last look at our house before handing over the keys

    Last look at our house before handing over the keys

  3. The children staying behindI won’t say this one was easy. In fact, saying goodbye to each of them was easily the hardest goodbye I’ve ever said. But I know that God will walk with them far better than I could anyway.At the time I wrote the original post, our son was living rent-free in his own bedroom in our basement. He had been laid off from a full-time job and despite all his efforts, nothing else had turned up. I was terrified to think of leaving him with no place to live and no way to support himself. In fact, I compared this worry to a pair of boots tumbling about in the dryer.But God was saying, “just wait.”First, Jake got a part-time job. At just a hair above minimum wage, it wasn’t really enough to live on, but it could have been enough to scrape by. I wondered if this was the answer. I tried to be happy with the answer. It wasn’t much but God would make it enough.

    But that wasn’t the answer. That was just a temporary step on the way to the answer. Out of the blue, he was offered a full-time job. It is a good job, with a good salary, working for a Christian man who owns a window-washing business and wanted to train Jake to work with him.  God came through again, even when I didn’t know how He was going to do it.

    Jake’s housing situation fell into place just that easily too. One of the pastors from the church Jake has been attending rents rooms to single guys who need a place to live. He had space, and was even willing to let Jake keep our cats. (Another smaller issue that was bothering me.) It couldn’t have worked out better even if we had tried. After we met the pastor, we knew it was the right place for Jake to be. We both felt like a physical burden had been lifted after we helped him move.

    Saying goodbye to the kids. The hardest goodbye we've ever said.

    Saying goodbye to the kids. The hardest goodbye we’ve ever said.

Nearly everything I was worried about was resolved. God has always been in control of this situation.

As we board a plane to leave the country in just an hour, one tiny little thing remains unresolved. One of my cats has vanished. We don’t know if she got out, or if she’s just really good at hiding, but despite all my pleas to God not to let this go unresolved before I left, we still don’t know what has happened to her.

And while I still know that God is faithful, I am, once again, choked up with fear of what might be. Why do I wrestle so much with fear? This is supposed to be the end of the story—the wrap up–the part of the blog post where I tie it all together and come to the conclusion that fear will no longer plague me. But I’m not there yet.

Maybe that’s the reality. Does anyone in this life ever really put fear to death?  Maybe my declaration over fear was just that- the declaration to say “My God will meet all my needs,” and to know it, even in fear. It allowed me to hold on to what I know and not to trust in what I feel.

Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Notice that the peace comes after the prayer, not after the answer. So I praise God for the multitudes of answers to prayer, both big and small, that have come my way in the last three months, and I wait for this little one to be answered, somehow, by some means.

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