Fighting the Fear of Living Out A Missionary’s Life

I am excited to introduce you all to my friend Sara! I met her sometime during the year we were at Bible College. It was a small school so eventually you met everyone. I was never very close with Sara, but as the year went on I saw how much she changed and grew. She became determined to live a life worthy of the gospel — no matter what the cost. I have always had a deep admiration for her.

She is the type of person who once she sets her mind to do something, she will do it with her whole heart. It truly is a gift to know her. Sara currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay with her husband and three beautiful children. I know you will enjoy what she has to share today!

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My first year out of high school, a year after becoming a Christian, I was sitting in a mission’s conference. I learned about missionaries all over the world. When I heard that there were people groups who still didn’t have God’s word in their language, I knew God was telling me to go. It wasn’t a hard decision. Just like it wasn’t a hard decision to leave the states 5 years later with my new-ish family and head to Montevideo, Uruguay to help form a new church in the capital city. The packing and support raising and leaving were difficult, but the call was clear. And we were excited and nervous, not fearful.

The first few months in Uruguay were fun and adventurous. We were like honeymooners in our new life, learning so much and experiencing so many new things. But as we settled in and started the hard work of language learning, and actually living (not vacationing) in a culture not our own. I was surprised by the fears that arose within me. We weren’t being persecuted or even living in a dangerous country. But, before I knew it, my zeal and love for communicating the gospel, turned into fears about my ability and adequacy. My linguistic, and cultural weaknesses became a stumbling block for my faith.

Should I speak about Him if I can’t communicate His message clearly in my host language? What if I share the gospel and they don’t understand me (literally)? Does my life really reflect His love under all the stress our family is experiencing in a new country and culture? What if I mess up and offend them? What if I share a truth poorly and they misunderstand who God is and what He has done?

While many of these wonderings were legitimate concerns for wanting to respect and love the people around us. They also revealed an even greater fear that had been lying dormant in my heart for a long time. Could God really use me and all my weakness on the mission field?

The truth is, these fears have never left me. We are four years in and these same doubts are sometimes my daily battlegrounds. The fear of not being enough is not just a fear for the mission field. I know the same fear in my life as a homeschooling mother, as a friend, as a wife. It is a fear that touches the core of who I am and what I was created to do. It is the question of identity and it pervades every area of Christian life.

Thankfully God answers this question thoroughly in His word and through the very message of the Gospel. In a society where we are constantly being told that we are enough. Or, that we need to just believe we are enough, the truth of it all is that we aren’t enough. We see our own insufficiency and it bothers us. I do not speak Spanish well enough. I am not patient enough with my kids. Our family does not have it together enough. I don’t know enough theology to answer every doubt or opposition to the gospel. And, I do not have enough wisdom to be a perfect mother or missionary. I am not enough. And trying to convince myself that I am is looking only toward the flesh and not toward the Savior. The answer will and should always be no. But I don’t stop there. The gospel continues with transforming hope.

When we enter into a relationship with Christ, we receive a new identity, old things are washed away and we are made new. Our not enough on our own becomes perfectly enough in Christ. At the Cross, Jesus took our shortcomings, sins, and fears and conquered them. But He was raised and us with Him. His resurrection clothed us in His righteousness and made us new vessels to be used by Him. In Him our weakness becomes strength and all our shortcomings become purposeful. And we have the surety of His Spirit who offers wisdom and sweet companionship along the journey. And so as Christians we learn to look to Him. Is HE enough to conquer death and sin? Is He enough to take a sinner and make her new? Is He enough to work through weakness and pain and difficulty and suffering? Is He enough to use my poor language skills to shine the light in the darkness? Is He enough to use my mite to bring life to a dead heart? The answer is always, and unconditionally, a resounding yes because all things are yes in Christ.

When fears arise within us we are never asked to suck it up and pretend we have it all together. Nor fake a smile to make it look like all is well. Instead, our fears tell us that we are lacking intimacy with our Father. To embrace and abide in the message of the gospel is to have true intimacy with our Father, and in true intimacy we find safety. John 15:1-11 is a powerful reminder to us in fear. It confronts our: ‘I can do nothing,’ with the glorious hope of the gospel:

“You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me he can do nothing. Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Abide in my love…these things I have spoken to You, that My joy may be complete.”

He abides in us! We are made clean! We are loved! And we will bear fruit! We have so much in Him. But how do we abide? We believe the gospel and walk in it. We reject lies, and we embrace the truth. We walk with Him, talk with Him, and enjoy Him. We spend time in prayer and fasting. We study His word and meditate on and memorize it. And when we do we will find that we bear much fruit, even in our weakness and inadequacy. Our hearts will fill with joy, He will be glorified in us and will use us to minister to others.

As we abide we can say with David:

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed…Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” Psalm 34

So, taste and see! Abide, friend. Take refuge in Him. Seek Him. Fear Him. And watch Him take away your fears and turn your lack into overflowing fruit for His name and kingdom.

Fighting the Fear of Living a Life You Didn’t Expect

I am so grateful to have my friend, Mary O’Brien, share with you today. Mary will forever be one of my saving graces because when I first met her, she came to my rescue!

I was at the National Religious Broadcaster Conference trying to carry 6 foot banners and a box of things for my boss’s book table. Suddenly a woman comes right by me, pulls on my dress and nicely said, “I’m sorry your dress was riding up, and your hands were full.”

How can you not become friends after that! I met up with Mary again at a conference her church where my boss was speaking. Mary is someone after being around her, it makes you want to live better. It truly is an honor to have her as a guest blogger today. I know you will enjoy what she has to share!

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I grew up in a loving yet dysfunctional home. As I have aged – I realize that my younger years were wrought with fear of outcomes I could not control. If I could control a situation, then it hurt less or caused less stress. But that simply was not often possible in my home.

Faith was ever present, but it was not until college that I came to have a personal relationship with Christ. I came to know that God wasn’t a far off God, but a God who loved ME and was intimately involved in my life. He used a very traumatic incident in my 20’s to break me free of my false sense of control and fear of “what ifs”.

I was a single 27 woman when out of the blue I was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis (an infection in the lining of the heart) and hospitalized. A few days later I was told I would need open heart surgery to repair the damage. I was in shock. I had gone from a normal, healthy young woman to being told I would have congestive heart failure within the next year if I didn’t have this surgery. Within a few days came another blow:

“Did we mention that depending on the outcome of the surgery you may not be able to have children?”

Um no, no one had mentioned this.

My mind was racing. Who would want to marry me if on the first date I had to tell them: Oh! By the way, I cannot have children and I have a foot-long scar down my chest.

I went into control mode. How can I be sure to manage the options so that is not the outcome (there were a few extreme options available to me that might have prevented this possible outcome).

As a believer who had just begun studying the Word seriously for a few years, I knew enough to know I needed to run to God and His promises. But this was so hard (I was still learning about God’s sovereignty and His goodness).

I thought maybe I could handle this better. There were several Scripture passages that really ministered to me at this time…

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

As I explored my options, the Lord confirmed to me that what I needed to do was let go and trust Him. Trust that whatever the outcome of the surgery was – He was good and faithful, and nothing was outside of His plans for me.

I recall kneeling by my bed a few nights before surgery and through tears just telling Him that I was giving this to Him. I was trusting Him. I knew that He loved me deeply and no matter what happened, He would see me through it and had a plan.

I woke up to good news- the valve had been repaired perfectly and there was no need for the strong medications that may have altered my health and ability to have children. I was so comforted in many ways by this. And, in my limited vision, I saw this as His promise for what life would hold for me.

However, years later, at around 39, I was in a place of striving against where the Lord had me as a single woman with no children. I just didn’t understand His plans or why my life didn’t look like I thought it was going to. In a place of fear – what if what I always thought my life would be doesn’t happen – I recall saying to the Lord that I felt a little bit tricked by Him. Why did you do that with my surgery only to NOT give me children. And in such a loving way I recall Him revealing to me that what He did was for my good, for my best. He took the best care of me with an outcome that allowed me to have a perfectly healthy life with no further concerns or issues. He never said it was about kids and marriage, but I had wanted it to be about that. He was simply taking the best care of me as a loving Father and blessing me with that outcome.

Around 42, he did a big work in me. He released me from the striving, and frankly the shame I had of being an older single woman whose life didn’t look most everyone else’s. I began to see His sovereignty and faithfulness in a new way.

Fear is natural, but the more we recognize the character of God the more we rest in knowing we have nothing to fear. He gave His Son for us. He knows every hair on our head. He knows the ugliest parts of us and loves us, graciously working to refine us and call us out of shallow waters into deep ones with Him. I love that I can look back on these times in my life when I start to get anxious about a situation and recount His goodness and that I have nothing to fear when He is in control.