A Lesson From the Mission Field
When we first arrived in Papua New Guinea back in 2011, one of our many adjustments was getting used to missionary lingo. “Bush Missionaries,” for example, are missionaries living in remote tribes as opposed to those working on a base in a supporting role. “Going finish” is what families going home for good are doing. And a “med-evac” is when you are sick/injured enough to get an insurance-funded trip to Australia.
Another expression I have heard many times is “God knows.” (This phrase is said in a respectful and reflective tone. Not like “God knows I’ve done more than my share.” But more like “God knows what’s best.”) I’ve learned that the expression is a way of responding to a situation that seems impossible or overwhelming. By saying “God knows,” people are saying, “from our perspective, this may not make sense, there may not be an obvious solution, it may seem like a disaster, but God is not surprised by this. He knew it was coming and He can be trusted to provide what is needed.” I’ve found this is a valuable–probably essential–perspective for the mission field.
There have frequently been times when “God knows” has been the only way for me to respond. When a Menyan guy broke the only belt for the saw mill while we still had hundreds of pieces of wood to cut for our house and our building team was arriving form America in a matter of days, God knew. When everybody said they didn’t want to cut the grass on the airstrip so the plane could land with our supplies the following week because they had not been paid for the last time, God knew. When Lucy blacked out after falling from a ladder in Menya where there are no ambulances or doctors, God knew. In every one of these situations, God knew what was going to happen and God provided a path forward even though it wasn’t alway according to my design or time-table.
This idea was recently highlighted (and expanded) for me when I read Psalm 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I admit that I had long ago deemed this sentiment to be naive or immature because it was part of a song I learned as a child–and because I didn’t know it was a Bible verse. But there it is in the Bible demanding serious consideration. As I considered it, I realized that it is an augmented version of “God knows.” To acknowledge that this day–with it’s victories, challenges, disasters and joys–was made by the Lord requires me to acknowledge that not only does God know what is happening, but he planned it. Whether the day seems good or bad from my perspective, it is part of God’s plan for me. He may be blessing me (Jam 1:17,) testing me (Jam 1:2-3) or discipling me (Heb 12:6,) but it is all part of his plan (Rom 8:28.) And how might I react to this realization? I should rejoice and be glad in it.
So I have a new motto when things are going my way and even more when they aren’t: this is the day that the Lord has made, I should rejoice and be glad in it.