Picture this: dried cement covers this woman’s eyes, which burn to a degree unimaginable. Her chest feels like a dump truck full of bricks just unloaded its cargo on top off her. She aches all over…so much so, that she wonders how much longer she could possibly endure it. Her own mother screams when she sees her.
This happened to missionary Joanne Shetler as the result of a plane accident. Her goal for years had been to translate the Scriptures into the Balangao language (a group of people living on the island of Luzon in the Philippines). But this obstacle now seemed insurmountable; was this the end of God’s work?
…”The pain was intense. That pain was almost my defeat as the doctors wouldn’t give me any painkillers for fear I might get addicted to them. I thought patients in hospitals were supposed to be close to God–I was just in pain. I couldn’t see God anywhere. I couldn’t feel him, I couldn’t hear him; there were no waves of glory, just wave after wave of pain.” [Pages 115-116, And the Word Came with Power, by Joanne Shetler with Patricia Purvis]
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been through anything so excruciating in my life! Childbirth, at least for me, has never even come close! Yet, after this traumatic incident, Joanne returned to Balangao and continued work on the translation, eventually finishing it several years later. She says of the translation work:
“…our first printing of the Balangao New Testament is almost sold out. That means it’s time to consider revising it and incorporating the translated portions of the Old Testament and then reprinting it.
How I’d love to go back and live in Balangao again and prepare for this second printing! Right now it’s just a dream. I’ll just wait and see what God wants…he has a way of transforming what I think are good plans.
And besides, I’ve never quite figured out just how to bring God glory. But I have learned to surrender my dreams to him. And he has made the reality of living according to his plan even better than my greatest dreams.” [Page 176]
The tenacity and faith of the native believers who helped her with the translation work, together with Joanne’s persistence and commitment to God’s will resulted in the completion of a New Testament translation for a people group who had never heard of Jesus before her arrival. There were times of intense trial, and at one point she suffered greatly. But did she let that deter her from the task God had set before her? No.
It’s easy to see how important it is to persevere when what is at stake is the transferring of God’s word from one language to another. For that lofty purpose, we imagine that we would be willing to endure countless setbacks and hardships–or even cracked ribs and acid-eaten eyes, as Joanne did. But what about when God’s word to us is to remain married to a person who hurts us? Or when He says to be fruitful and multiply? Many people are quick to excuse their actions by rationalizing that “God would want us to be happy,” in the case of divorce; or that “God wouldn’t want us to risk our health,” in the case of rejecting more children. But, is that consistent?
I would say that sometimes the right path is not the easy path. Sometimes it hurts to follow God. Sometimes our health is put at risk. And sometimes, our lives. Who are we to put limitations on obedience? Do we only obey certain commands and not others–are we selective in what we will do, and what we will not do? Or do we obey partially, and then act like we’ve done our duty? Are we so unwilling to sacrifice our comfort, that we would hold back complete obedience to our Lord? For, if we were to be consistent, we would have to admit that it makes no difference whether we are blazing paths through jungles in order to bring the light of Christ into a dark, pagan land; are beaming rays of love toward a hateful spouse; or are bearing the weight of a new child within our wombs: all are done in obedience to our Lord, and all are worth the pain, the toil, and the tears.
Many are there, even professing Christians, who ridicule God’s ways, and exalt their own, selfish agendas, instead. Either that, or they say, “Well that’s nice for you, but it isn’t for me,” as if God’s word doesn’t apply to everybody if they don’t want it to. But what about you? Are you willing to tear yourself away from the spirit of rebellion all around you, even in your own church, and attach yourself tightly to what the word of God actually says? How much are you willing to give up for God? Can you bring yourself to sacrifice yourself…for Him? Will you say, along with Joanne: “But I have learned to surrender my dreams to him. And he has made the reality of living according to his plan even better than my greatest dreams.”