We are leaving for Rwanda as a family at 6:00 a.m. on August 8th. Today is August 6th and we still have not received Natalie’s passport. We had pictures taken and submitted paperwork a few months ago at the Yamhill County Clerk’s office. The state department rejected Nattie’s pictures because evidently there was some red in her eyes. Two days ago I paid $85.00 to expedite her passport and ship overnight, but it still has not arrived. We have prayed and prayed. Natalie had to have seven shots in preparation for this trip! She took them like a trooper. She is only 11 years old, but she has been experiencing the worst spiritual opposition of our whole family. Through all of this she has persevered. I worry that not taking this trip will break her heart.
As we pray for a breakthrough in this, many possibilities have gone through my mind.
1) This is a growing experience for our faith.
2) This is spiritual warfare that we must pray against.
3) God doesn’t want us to go on this trip after all for some unknown reason.
As I go through this emotional wrestling match, one minute resting in trust and the next feeling frustration and anxiety, God has been speaking into the lingering unbelief in my life. Contending for something in faith brings back many painful feelings.
Since everything in the spiritual life is accessed by faith, we can not base our lives on experience alone. Many of us have had powerful experiences that will actually undermine our faith in God if we allow them to. God will interpret life’s experiences with us and strengthen our faith, but the evil one will also offer an interpretation that will sound very valid and will lead to death.
When I was in college, my mother called to tell me that her cancer had reoccured. The doctor had declared it terminal and had given her three to six months to live. My mother began to pray for healing and I partnered with her in faith. Now my mother was living with her boyfriend at this time who was not a believer, and she had divorced my father several years before. As far as I know, she never repented of any of this, but prayers for her healing became the centerpiece of both of our lives during this time. This went on for three years, far past the life expectancy that the doctor had predicted.
Throughout these three years, my mother and I corresponded closely. Her healing became more and more important to my faith. Every time I read my Bible I would highlight verses that I felt confirmed my belief in her healing. It became foundational to my belief system, really setting me up for the fall that lay in my future.
My father called me only six months before I finished college to let me know that he also had been diagnosed with cancer and it was terminal. Both parents had contracted the disease when our family lived in Pasco Washington, which lies downwind from Hanford (a nuclear plant in eastern Washington). However, his response to the diagnosis was very different from my mother’s. He told me that the Bible says that each man will die once and then face judgement (Hebrews 9:27), and he was ready to meet the Lord.
My father died first on January 4, 1994. My mother died ten days later on January 14, her 48th birthday. Of course I was devastated, but I can see now that my faith in God was the greatest casualty.
I continued to attend church and read my Bible for many years after this, but the damage was done. Unbelief spread through my life like a terminal cancer. My grief experience left me disappointed with God and unable to trust him with anything real that was going on in my life. Anxiety and uncertainty took deep root in my heart. I was certain that God could not be trusted.
Over the past six years, God has been healing this damage and growing my faith. Most of my answered prayers have been internal, resulting in transformation and growth within myself. Old recycled sins have fallen away as God has set me free from bondages I thought I could never be free of. He has asked me to pray scripture and to believe it on a daily basis.
God’s word is of no value to us if we do not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)
But this effort, to contend in prayer with a deadline looming over my head brings back some painful memories from my college days. How will I feel if this passport doesn’t arrive on time?
To be continued…