Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Faith Struggle

Rembrandt's Sea of Galilee 
(Currently missing; stolen.)
I met a Flemish woman in Stellenbosch, and then I met her again several weeks later here; she was in her 60's and seemed like a lonely soul. She babbled often to the guests, and perhaps stayed in hostels because it gave her an opportunity to meet people. She told me that her family and friends back home tell her that they love her writing, and I realized - somehow - what was missing with my writing. And that is an openness to share my fears and challenges and insecurities. And one theme that's been resurfacing over the years is how to trust in God with my security and well being, especially with regard to money. It hasn't been easy.

On this trip, especially, I feel like God's been challenging me to give more. And that's not easy, especially when you're not making a regular salary.

People look at me and think being on sabbatical is a dream, and perhaps it would seem so, especially if you're still on a paid salary. Imagine getting paid for not working for a year. I know some people would die for that opportunity. But that's not the case with me.

When I told my legal mentor that I was taking a break, I remember he looked at me in shock and said, "So you're going on an unpaid one year sabbatical?"

And I said, "Yup." And not knowing his religious background, I added with confidence, "The Jewish people practiced it in ancient times and had faith God would provide. I need to have the same faith."

He stared at me, semi-puzzled.

And that's been the challenge, aye? The Torah is clear that God's people were not allowed to farm the land on the seventh year for a number of reasons. One was to allow the land to recharge. Two was so that the poor could come on the land and have food. Third was so that the animals could also recover from the problems caused by development. (In other words, the outer environment also had to heal.) And probably fourth and most importantly, it taught the Jewish people to rely on a good and caring God - who would come through and provide for his people and not to rely solely on their own efforts.

But on Sabbatical, I realize that God called me to give more. And at times, I didn't want to.

Giving a lot and finish this trip with enough money were in conflict with each other. I was worried.

On the other hand though, I had come to a comfortable place of giving, and it was no longer good enough. Plus I was facing other challenges form this Sabbatical. I was burnt out. And I still had  trauma that came from nearly being killed. (Sometimes I still remember all the blood that was gushing from shoulder and head and how it soaked through all my clothes and drizzled all over my hand.)

Nonetheless, I still obeyed the commandment to be generous, but admittedly, not as cheerfully as I should have. In the end though, I had to tell myself: If you [Paul] believe that (1) God created the universe and (2) that He is caring and kind, then you should have no problem in trusting in him for your resources. In the end, it's all God's resources, anyways. You can't take it with you when you die.

No wonder why Jesus said: “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings." (Matt. 6:31-34, GNT).

In summary - the Scripture says God knows what you need and not to worry about it. Everyone worries about these kind of things, but you're different. You're chosen to be a light and you have a mission to accomplish to advance the Kingdom. So be joyful and cheerful and don't worry, because your God will provide whatever you need, and in doing so, you show the world your great faith.

And that's been the struggle inside of me between light and dark thoughts. But I should know better.

In my life, my God has always come through. For instance, I was almost paralyzed to start my own law practice (without having any experience in litigation or starting my own business), not making money, and having a huge student loan hanging over my head. But look now; I won a number of cases, made enough to go on sabbatical, and had my student loans paid off - which freed me greatly (in so many ways).

But God never lets you get comfortable. I've been given more challenges and more trials and more tribulations; so that I may mature as an individual and in my faith. And that's not been easy, but certainly rewarding.

In any event - God's come through again. An anonymous benefactor deposited $1,447.57 into my account the other day. Wow! And thank you!

At first I was skeptical about the money; that's my training as an attorney. (We tend to see the world through a negative lens.) But then I had to accept that it was a sign to not be afraid of where I'm going, who I'm seeing, or what I'm asked to do. And to be obedient, faithful, and to have faith.

I then had a chat with an important person in my life. And he too reminded me to not be worried about money.

After thinking about it some, it completely changed my life. I realized I need to enjoy myself more in South Africa and it freed me in knowing what work I'll be doing when I came back home. The insight there is that fear leads to constraints and that hope and love (which casts out fear) leads to possibilities and creativity.

So, I end by asking that you keep me in your thoughts and prayers and send me encouragement if it's on your heart. This journey hasn't been the safest one. In Colombia, I was almost killed. In South Africa, two thieves, in conspiracy with each other, at my hostel stole money from me. I also think one of the people that housed me was unsafe. At the moment, though, I'm enjoying myself, writing in a fishing village (some of my favorite spots on Earth). Thus, please remember I need your prayers.

In faith,


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