Seven months after the start of our first term in Poland, I found myself sitting in a hospital with our son who had the flu and pneumonia. My wife, Jenny, was home caring for our girls, who both had the flu. I was scared — not only was the Polish language foreign to me, so was the country’s medical system and practice. The customer-centered mentality of the American medical system I was so accustomed to was not the system in Poland. My sick son and I spent five days with four other families and their sick children in a room no larger than most American bedrooms. It was a trying and difficult time.
Fortunately, my son recovered, and so did both of my daughters.
About a month later, while leaving a church service, I mentioned to a friend that after such a disruption caused by family illnesses, I was ready to get back to disciple-making and being discipled. My comments indicated that the season of illness that we had just experienced had only interrupted the true reason we were in Poland.
“You mean to tell me you have not been discipled or been able to make disciples over this past month?” my friend asked.
“Well, no,” I said. “I have been in the hospital with my son and, after that, caring for my daughters at home.”
Again he asked, “So you have not been discipled or been able to make disciples in this season?”
Then it hit me: His point was that even in the middle of what seemed a major disruption of my schedule and plan, it was actually an opportunity for ministry to take place and for God's plan to prevail.
Disruption? Or opportunity?
Becoming like Christ and helping others do the same is not confined to a church service or one-on-one meetings. No, following Jesus, being his disciple and helping make disciples is my whole life and every moment of every day. The hospital was not an interruption of what I was called to do. It was very much a part of what God was doing. What seemed like an interruption or distraction to me was the very thing God was using to shape me and reach others.
Over these past several weeks, my friend’s encouragement all those years ago has been ringing in my ears. As the disruption of our current reality set in — trips canceled, meetings postponed and the possibility of returning to Poland put on hold — I found my friend’s words coming back to my mind’s forefront.
Our current situation in life is not a disruption to just endure until it passes; it's an opportunity to reflect, lament, process and remember Jesus is still with us and wants to shape us through it all and use us during this time.
So, currently I'm asking myself, Do I have a soft heart able to be molded more into Christlikeness through this season? Am I ready and willing to be used by God in whatever way he sets before me (even with all my meetings switched over to video calls, etc.)? Or, am I only willing to be used by God when it is on my terms and looks how I want it
Rejoice, pray continually, give thanks
I want to encourage you with some ways that have helped Jenny and me have a mindset obedient to Christ in all situations. They help us make an extra effort to position our hearts and minds on things above so that our response during this time is not, Why are you doing this, God? but rather, What are you trying to teach us through this time and how can we be used by you to advance your kingdom?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul encourages us to "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
These practices can be difficult when life is completely interrupted, as it has been for all of us recently. We trust God has a bigger plan than does the COVID-19 virus. And we are choosing to seek him, pray continually for all the things that invade our minds and give thanks for how we see him working.
We are not saying this time doesn't come with unique challenges. Each of us is impacted in varying ways, and we mentally cope differently. Even Jenny and I have handled it differently. But one thing we know is that the God of peace will give us what we need when we need it.
And when we experience tribulation, we can have hope and continue praying because we know this God of peace will be near. Romans 12:12 reminds us to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and be constant in prayer.
If you are experiencing any sort of disruption, sickness, sadness, depression, confusion or frustration, know you are not alone. Give someone a call to talk, encourage you and point you to the giver of peace. Likewise, don't forget to reach out to your family, neighbors and friends. Jenny and I have needed friends to do that for us during this time, and we thank God for people who have listened to us talk about our concerns, fears and frustrations.
I hope you are meeting Jesus in the middle of all that is going on right now and know that we are praying for you as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
Steve Valentine, Converge Global Worker
Steve Valentine, his wife, Jenny, and their children are Converge global workers to Poland. They are serving a home assignment in the United States and plan to return to Poland later this year.