Chronic pain. Infertility. Loneliness. Financial insecurity. Illness. All of these issues and more are part of the daily life of the women I met last Monday night.
A friend invited me to speak a word of encouragement to the women from her church, and she graciously offered to translate for me! I agreed...and then I panicked. I wondered what in the world I might have to share with women in a country where war is a not-so-distant memory and drug addiction, infidelity, and domestic violence are ever-present realities. As I prayed, God reminded me of some significant truths.
First, sin is sin no matter what country, culture, or language we’re in. Every day we are faced with the evidence of a lost Eden. We see it in the news, in our communities, in our relationships, and we see it in our own hearts. We are a sinful, broken people living in a dying world, and it hurts.
Second, our only hope is in God. Regardless of our history or our current events, only God is trustworthy. Our future is only secure in him. His power and goodness are displayed even in, or perhaps especially in, the brokenness around us.
Third, by focusing on the source of our hope, God, we can have a different view of our circumstances. Rather than looking at the mess around us and seeing only an ever-worsening future, we can look through the mess to our loving and faithful Heavenly Father. Our circumstances may not change, but our focus can.
The character of God gives us plenty to ponder. Many of the women in the group shared that they were most encouraged by meditating on God’s love for them, his power and faithfulness, his kindness and patience, and mostly his willingness to offer them salvation.
While I didn’t offer them any solutions to the problems that plague their society, I was able to invite them to look beyond the problems to their great provider. They were encouraged as we explored Psalm 13 and Habakkuk 3:17-18, remembering who God is in spite of our circumstances. And I was encouraged as I listened to them declare his goodness in their current realities.
As my husband, Paul, and I get to know this city more, we want to see beyond the brokenness to our healing God. While we cry out in pain or frustration because of our circumstances, we also remember to praise him for who he is, and to speak out those aspects of his character that apply to our situation.
Praise God for how he meets each need, how he shepherds his people, and how he lavishes his love on us. I look forward to seeing how he might continue to manifest himself to the people of Serbia, and most especially to the women I met last Monday.
Novi Sad, Serbia