They promised him a ticket to the United States of America. The land of opportunity.
The whole family took part. Everyone worked extra hard and pooled their money. They turned it over to the travel agency, who gave them one ticket. The plan was for him to go and then, in the land where money flows like water, he would be able to quickly pay for the rest of his family to join him.
It was a good plan. He told his family goodbye and boarded a plane in Nepal. Seven thousand miles later, he was dropped off in Chuuk. Oh, you’ve never heard of Chuuk? He hadn’t either.
A tiny group of islands is the South Pacific, Chuuk was overtaken by the Japanese during World War II, and was the naval base the United States retaliated on after Pearl Harbor. After the war it remained under US control and it was there that George was dropped off without money, or ability to leave.
Eleven years later my husband met him on the beaches of Chuuk’s main island. Amos was there rebuilding houses after a mudslide dumped most of the buildings into the Pacific ocean.
They forged a friendship through language barriers and Amos heard his story. George told his tale with excitement, for eleven long years later, he had saved enough money to return to Nepal.
“But aren’t you angry?” Amos asked him. “All those wasted years…”
George looked right at him and spoke carefully, making sure his words were understandable. “Oh, no, Mr. Amos. I am not angry. What those swindlers meant for evil, God has used for good. It was here, on this little island, that I met Jesus. I had never heard of Him before! But I met Him here. And now, I am going back to my family– not with money, no, but with something far greater. I now have the privilege of taking Jesus back to my people.”
I’ve been thinking lately about worst case scenarios because over the past few years we’ve walked through several of them.
It’s super easy to look at everything that went wrong and say, “Where were you, God? This was the worst thing that could have ever happened!” And yet, I can’t help but think of George. We lost track of him over the years– but I’ve got to believe that God worked miraculous things out in his life. The “worst case scenario” of being dumped off a pauper, unable to speak the local language, and all alone in a foreign country, is pretty much as bad as it can get. Yet, God was not finished with George’s story. This horrible set-back in George’s life was redeemed when he met the God-Who-Is-Actively-Present right there on a tiny South Pacific island.
Two years ago we walked through a failed adoption. Of all the things that could have happened when we opened ourselves up to adopting an older child– this was the thing we feared the most. A child coming into our home for a period of time and then having to leave. But God wasn’t finished with the story. In an upcoming book* I share the miraculous way God used that loss in our lives.
And that is just a little part of the story! Over and over the worst things in my life are being used to remake me, one tiny step at a time.
Don’t misunderstand. The pain and the hard isn’t being taken away. No matter how glorious his salvation, George still lost eleven years with his family. There is no fixing that. No matter how wonderful the redemption of our failed adoption, there is still a little girl we love who will probably spend the rest of her life wondering if we even cared at all. There is no fixing that either.
But the glory, yes! the glory, of serving our Creator-God is that my worst-case-scenarios don’t have to be in vain. If I surrender to Him and put my hope in the cross of Christ, He will pick of the pen and finish my story.
In 1 Peter 1 we are told, “ So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
So the question, this hard and refining question [where is our God when the worst happens?] is answered in His promises. He’s working. That’s where He is. Moving and remaking our hearts and our lives. He lets us know that there are trials to face, and yet, He still whispers His never-ending promise:
There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now– but I do know this: God is the one who writes the last chapter.
Trust Him with your story. Hold tight to the faith. Your life is worth living. God has a plan for you. And as you surrender to Him, He will work all things out for good– even the hard things.
*Watch for Counting Grains of Sand release date to be announced!