The sifting of Arise Africa
A few years ago I was hanging out with a friend who was helping me get through a hard time in my life. We discussed how things can be difficult for a period of time and that Satan wants to sift you like wheat. My friend kept directing me towards Luke 22 where it is discussing Jesus' last supper. In Luke 22:30-31 Jesus speaks to Simon and says "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
We talked about how with hard things in life God never turns away from you or lets you loose your faith fully. You might go through a period of uncertainty or anger at God but he will never fully let Satan "sift" or get to you. This is common throughout the Bible when you look at Job or others who suffered. And even though our flesh wants to be angry or give up or feel that you cannot overcome whatever is in front of you, you will make it if you continue to trust in God. However, you have to fight to not be fully sifted. At the time I must admit I don't think I fully understood being sifted and tested and what it looked like to be sifted and be OK. When you are in the middle of a hard time it is difficult to see that things will get better. But, as my friend told me, I saw years later that I had been sifted and that I had made it through. In fact I think one's relationship with the Lord is strengthened through those difficult times. I know mine was, even though I didn't like it at the time! James 1 talks all about this.
I listened to a Tim Keller sermon on this exact part of the Bible the other day:
Something jumped out to me when Tim Keller talked about how he has noticed that Satan likes to attack or sift you when maybe there has just been a major victory or spiritual achievements that have happened in your life that has glorified the Lord. And this does make sense, Satan doesn't want God's kingdom to be glorified.
It really struck me though because Arise Africa was definitely being sifted in March/April. We had just opened the Arise Home in December/January and had all these exciting things happening to us. We had new kids in our custody, were expanding and hiring more staff, and were gearing up for another awesome project with the Kershaws for Kershaw's Challenge 2013.
But we were being attacked too. In fact for about a week straight I think I was called from Zambia at least twice every night. And I know things are bad when I get a call in the middle of the night USA time, that means we have trouble! I remember one time answering the phone and Megan literally saying "Everything bad is happening this week!" We had difficulty in the Arise Home with one of the kids. We had a bit of a security issue at the home we had to work through. One night I answered my cell phone at 3AM to hear Megan say, "OK don't freak out but Peter (kiddo in the Arise Home) got his finger slammed in a door and lost the tip of it, we are taking him to the hospital right now and we do have the tip with us in a cup, let's hope they can sew it back on. I thought you would want to know." Lovely, what a wonderful way to be woken up! (the tip was not able to be salvaged but the poor guy had surgery and his finger was repaired) Then a day later we had a water issue with the well at the home too, which was an expense we didn't expect. All of these things came at once. We were both laughing and the craziness as we discussed how to work through all the trials that had been thrown at us. We were being sifted! And a few months earlier we had a major triumph for God's kingdom by the Arise Home opening and everything else happening.
Our staff pulled together and really helped out these past few months. They helped handle the security situation and take care of the kids in the home. They stepped up and dealt with Peter's injured finger and took him to the hospital and clinics. They got him through it, although his middle finger is not the longest anymore on one hand. I never thought our first major medical bill would be for a middle finger. kinda fitting for us :)
Every time we make it through a hard time I am reminded that God was there for us. In fact, it is our Zambian staff that remind me constantly of this. Sometimes when I am worried or stressed they politely just say, "God won't let us down." Oh yea Alissa remember this isn't YOUR show to figure out and worry about, God will take care of us.
Although the sifting wasn't fun and all the trials were difficult, I am thankful for the reminder it gives me to rely on HIM. I am grateful how during difficult times I am forced to pray often to God and lean on Him. I am even grateful for the bond and seeing our staff pull together and work as a team to serve the Lord and take care of everything. Sifting brought us closer to one another and we laearned to have faith.
I don't have all the answers to trials in life. I am the first to say that when I am sifted I am a mess and sometimes not very nice. I am learning to be a better person during my sifting. But I have been sifted enough to take something from it and to rely on HIM and grow my faith. There are SO many things in life we try to do without the Lord. It is so much easier just to dig in when it gets hard and know that you have to give it up to the Lord. Things might be uncomfortable or painful for a while. But beg for help, comfort, security, and most importantly faith and see what happens. He doesn't let you go through it alone, I promise. Just ask Him for help.