Today we have a special guest author - Katie Anderson. I asked her to share a bit about what God has been teaching her in the last month about trusting him with her move to China.
“There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.”
I first heard this story about 15 years ago. My life has had more trauma and abuse in it than the average bear’s experience. To put it mildly, I’ve survived a lot of things. This parable came at a time when I was really wrestling with how to trust God, how to reconcile the God of the bible with the God of my circumstances, of my past.
This parable was a loud echo, a thunderclap on the mountainside of my heart, as I wrestled with God as my waymaker. You see, as humans, we are so very good at thinking. I would argue that it is one of the tenants by which humankind marks itself. Our ability to reason, to think, to rationalize.
But one of the downfalls (and hooo nanny, there are many) of our glorification of intellect is that it has convinced us we must judge EV.ER.Y.THING. That every thought, experience, encounter, action by ourselves and others must be analyzed, judged, and assigned value. Some conclusion must be drawn! Good, bad. Kind, evil. Scary, encouraging.
As humans, we also attempt to learn, to grow, to progress, by this analysis. And what do we so often learn? That the world is a scary place. That people cannot be trusted. That bad things are inevitable. And that leads us to either feel hopeless or to feel defensive.
However, the truth is that Jesus came, he lived, he died, he rose again! And he is coming back to establish his kingdom here on earth. Our world is in the middle of being remade, but the remodel hasn’t yet been finished. And so, rather than allowing God to speak to our circumstances, we settle into the ancient lie that our circumstances define our God. Rather than trusting the omnipotent creator of everything, we allow our circumstances to breed mistrust.
Just as Eve was cowed by the serpent in the garden, so our present-day snakes wind themselves around our ankles and trip up our souls. “If God allowed this, he must not love you. If God doesn’t love you, then you can’t count on him to take care of you. If you can’t count on him to take care of you, who will? BAD THINGS ARE GOING TO KEEP HAPPENING!”
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In. ALL. Circumstances. In all circumstances, what? Give thanks.
Romans 8 tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ and that God works ALL THINGS for our good.
Romans 5: 3-5 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
What does this tell me? First, God is on my side. Always. Full stop.
Second, I can trust God, I can put my hope in God. God will not leave me high and dry, my hope in God will not be disappointed, not be proven folly. God will never embarrass, disappoint, or desert me. God always comes through for me.
Third, every single heartache, every single trauma, every single abuse, every single season of grieving, poverty, humility, oppression, pain, sickness – all suffering – God will turn around and use to bless us – because he loves us. God will redeem the living sacrifice that is my existence on this earth.
Some of that redemption I will get to see come about here on earth. So much of it, I will not understand until Jesus welcomes me home. I can accept that, albeit at times in halting, stumbling steps when I rest on God’s promises to me.
I’m walking through it right now. I’ve been praying to move out of the States for over a decade. I studied abroad in Australia in 2008 for 6 months. It’s a 30 hour trip back to Minnesota and I cried the entire 30 hours back.
The enneagram 8 version of me probably would have only gotten on that plane bound and gagged. But I am a 6, so the thought of being hauled off to jail and trapped in a cell for violating my student visa was too much for me to fight.
Seeing my dad’s face when I walked off the plane in Duluth was one of the most painful moments of my life, knowing that seeing him represented the final nail in the coffin of my freedom of living abroad. And I am the quintessential daddy’s girl, so friends, that’s saying a lot.
In the past 11 years and 10 months since I moved to Australia, I have prayed constantly that God would allow me to live abroad permanently. In those years, some of the best moments of my life have happened. I went to Sweden and France; I completed my master’s degree, I got married, bought a house, and had my son. Incidentally, every hope and fear I have had for my life has been realized in the past decade. And yet still, I hoped.
On January 2nd, my husband, two-year-old toddler tornado, and I got on a plane bound for the People’s Republic of China. The answer to my second longest-standing prayer had been answered. I was feeling a bit salty about the stupid caveat that we had to come back to the States for 3 weeks due to some (I thought arbitrary) reasons given by my husband’s employer. Actually, I still think their reasons are stupid and I still feel a bit salty about it.
But guess what? A couple of days after we landed Stateside again, the panic with coronavirus exploded. Life in the city in which we live, thanks to the Chinese government’s collectivist values, has come to a near halt, in order to fight against the highly contagious illness.
Banks are temporarily closing, all restaurants, schools, parks, and public spaces are banned from operating. All residents must wear masks every moment they step out of their personal living quarters and gathering in groups is strongly discouraged altogether. There are water and food shortages. Riots are starting to take place.
The US has since banned travel to China and even executed emergency evacuations from China of US citizens. All major airlines have canceled services to and from China, and as I write this, my family is currently banned from at least two countries due to asymptomatic contagion risks.
I am absolutely devastated by this. My heart breaks for the country, the people, that we have chosen to call our home. And I loathe being back in the States again. For reasons better left to share another day, I feel as though I escaped hell only to be captured and thrown back into the pit yet again.
And yet, maybe. Maybe God is working all things for my good. Maybe I don’t have to have this all figured out. Maybe God’s short, albeit painful, delay in fulfilling my prayer, my hope, is because he sees from his vantage that which I am too small to comprehend.
I can trust God in this, too. I can trust God with me.
As a friend once wisely said in the midst of her own trauma, “I can’t wait to see how God uses this to embarrass Satan.”
You can follow Katie and her adventures on Instagram : lakekat. If you are interested in either hearing more from Katie or would like to contribute a story of your own, let me know either in the comments or by emailing me - firstname.lastname@example.org .