Two weeks ago I left Congo for the first time in 6 months to go to Kenya for a retreat with Samaritan’s Purse. As some of you know, this came at an opportune time for me, as I was at a point of burnout. I was going through the motions, trying to get through each day, biding my time until I could get away, to be able to reflect, to spend time alone with God, with no distractions, to be able to hear Him. In the several days just before I left, it became harder and harder to speak french, and by the day before my departure, I could barely do it at all. Thanks be to God, I had an intern with me who speaks English, French, and Lingala, so he was of great assistance to me, especially that last day.
When I left, I was angry. Angry because of all the frustrations, angry because the insufficiencies of our hospital in equipment and staff to save lives, angry at all the deaths that occur on such a regular basis. Angry. Angry. Angry. There is no better way to describe it. And yes, I was angry at God because of all this. Why does he allow it all? Why do we continually struggle just to keep power, let alone enough supplies and nursing staff to care for our patients? Why does it all have to be so frustrating? God knew how I felt, and let me be angry for a time. I didn’t want to let go of my anger. I was a bit proud, like I knew better than He what to do, and He just needed to do it. He just needed to fix the problems. He can heal the sick. He can provide us with consistent electricity. But He doesn’t always work that way, and He needed me to know and accept that.
To me, the main theme from the conference was rest. There were several sessions in which this was the theme, each using a different way of demonstrating rest. The first comes from Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
I must admit whenever I’ve thought of a yoke, I thought of it as something for just one animal, But I was reminded a yoke is often used to join two animals together to make pulling a heavy load easier on both. So when Jesus is saying to take his yoke upon us, he’s not giving us all the work-he’s sharing it with us, making our burdens lighter and easier. He can take care of all our worries, fears and frustrations. We can rest in him. If there is anything I’ve needed more at this time, it’s to rest, and most importantly, to rest in HIM. I’ve been a bit like a fussy child who knows they need a nap but resists it, even by throwing temper-tantrums. Fortunately, God does not give up on fussy children, but gently tries to calm them until they rest comfortably in His arms. And in this last two weeks, I’ve been able to quiet myself until I could rest in Him, almost feeling His arms around me, comforting me. It’s not all the time I feel that way, but it’s enough to start to bring some healing to my hurting, broken heart.
The second was a session entitled “Even God Rested.” The speaker used several passages to show that Jesus often rested. Among these, Luke 5:15-16 sums it up best:
“But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds were gathering together to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses. Yet Jesus himself frequently withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.”
Jesus could have taken up all his time caring for the sick and healing them, but he made a point to withdraw, to be alone before God. There was certainly no end to the number of people needing healing, be it physical or spiritual, yet he didn’t heal them all. His goal was to spread the kingdom of God, not to heal every sick person on earth. But to spread the Good News, the forgiveness of sins, sometimes this included miracles of physical healing. Sometimes it included casting out of demons. But despite these wondrous things, he still withdrew frequently to pray. He often rested in the arms of his Father. I am sure it gave him strength and guidance to continue on.
The speaker also shared three powerful truths that sum up his talk:
“The deadly scheme is this: keep them running and wear them out, that way they can never protect their hearts.”
“Peaceful and humble reliance on the Lord prepares us to minimize the frequency of stress in our lives.”
And most importantly:
“As a part of a well-balanced life of peacefulness, he slept. He left needs unmet. He took time away from busyness for reflection, solitude, and prayer.”
We will do well to follow His example!!
How am I now, one week following this conference? Better. No longer angry. Better able to accept His ways, and admit they are so much better than my ways. I am able to realize that my purpose in being here is not to be a physician, to heal every person who walks through the hospital doors, but to be a light for Christ. I cannot heal them all, nor should I kill myself trying. In fact, it is not me who heals them, I merely provide a means for them to be healed. Only God can heal. There will always be ill people waiting to be healed. I take comfort in two truths:
- It is ultimately not I who decides who will be healed and who will not. I can give the best care possible but God decides the outcome.
- I need to follow the example of Christ to frequently withdraw and pray. I need to rest in Him.