Discontentment is Fear

{NOTE from George:

this is a copy of a newsletter I send out every week on the topic of Biblical contentment. Each one follows the same outline: something to read | do | pray

If you'd like to get a dose of contentment to your inbox every Thursday SIGN UP HERE  }


In the capital city here in Burundi there is a “zoo” that has a number of small concrete enclosures. One of the few things you can do at this “zoo” - other than wrap a snake around your neck, or hand soda or beer to the chimpanzees, (yes, seriously; and no, don’t get me started) - is buy a live guinea pig or rabbit at the front desk, and feed it to the crocodile.I’m going out on a limb to assume the last few moments of the furry animal’s life is pretty much the epitome of fear. They see what's happening and they have no rational hope of changing the situation. Telling that bunny “don’t be scared” would be horribly cruel if you don’t plan on doing something to save it from the croc (and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d recommend that, no matter how deep your love for rabbits). Unless you knew it had no valid reason to be scared (which you don't) or you are going to save it (which you probably shouldn't) you are either delusional or cruel to say “don’t be scared.”In the Bible, "Fear Not" is the most common 'command' from God. All throughout the Old and New Testaments, the God of the Bible tells his people to not be afraid. If God says “don’t be afraid” when we face situations that appear bleak or downright frightening, we can assume the same as in the rabbit-croc-situation.
There are only three options: 

  • God is delusional and doesn't understand what we’re facing
  • He’s cruel and is giving us false hope before we’re eaten alive
  • He is both aware and good.

If he is both truly good and fully aware and yet still says 'fear not' then one of two things is true: he will do something; he sees from a perspective that we don't.

God stepping in and doing something is easier to understand. Even if we think we've never experienced it, we can imagine it. The Bible is full of instances when God steps into human experience to save his people.

The second possibility is harder to picture. From the rabbit’s perspective, the whole situation is hopeless, and impending doom and complete ruin are inevitable. But what if it wasn’t? What if there were a way out that only you knew about, or the croc was merely a hologram, or their mouth was wired shut, or they were actually a friendly vegetarian crocodile (sorry, I’m reaching on this, but stick with me). What if the apparent total destruction was actually not so? What if the person saying ‘fear not’ knew the real truth of the situation, and that’s why they are saying it?

To accept this truth - the rabbit would have to believe you see things it doesn't, you know things it doesn't, you understand what it can't. For us to accept God's command of Fear Not - we have to do the same as the rabbit, accept there are things beyond our understanding. Maybe He knows some temporary pain will lead to something better. Maybe he knows it will not actually break us. Maybe he knows it won't happen at all. Maybe we will never understand why he said it.

But we have to accept our limitations. There are events we misunderstand. There are parts we can't see. Perhaps that's the hardest part.

{click above to download wallpaper}

I admit by even calling you "God"
that you know more than I do,
that you see things I can't see,
that you understand what I can't.
Help me to accept this truth,
so I can believe you more deeply
when you tell me
'Do Not Be Afraid.'
DO THIS: Download one of these wallpapers for your phone or computer as a daily reminder of the truth that is often hard for us to see:


Befriending Faithfulness

 (from Eric)

I don't know how many times I've read Psalm 37, but I was struck anew by one aspect of it yesterday:

"Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass and with like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:1-4

The psalm continues in the same vein for a total of 40 verses, with the same recurring juxtaposition which makes it sound more like Proverbs than any other Psalm that I know.  Part 1: "Don't be anxious about evil; it won't endure." Part 2: "Instead, trust in the Lord and his ways.  That's what endures." Then repeat, in case you missed the last 8 versions.  Some things are worth repeating.

And sure enough, for all of the repetition, I still forget to "fret not" the evil of the world.  I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in that regard.  Our world fairly teems with fretting.

It seems like the kind of exhortation that might sink deeper into our broken hearts if the negative command (don't be anxious!) is coupled with the corresponding positive command to fill the void (instead, do this!).  So what is that positive command?  Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

It's a fun mind game for me to imagine what word I would have thought would follow "befriend" if I had to complete the sentence like some kind of google predictor.  The idea of befriending an abstract idea is interesting enough by itself but what follows?  Befriend...what?  Righteousness?  Obedience?  The community of God?  Instead the word is faithfulness.  Befriend faithfulness.  Get to really deeply know sticking-to-it.  Being faithful at what?  The psalm doesn't explicitly say, but given that is follows "trust in the Lord and do good", I read it as "remain faithful to that which the Lord has asked you to do."

What does all this say to us?  It calls us to remain faithful to what we are called to, even when it is small.  Even when, and perhaps especially when, it does not seem to be producing the desired results in the timeframe that we expected or desired.  It ultimately means being more concerned about faithfulness in the way we walk the individual steps of the journey, resting in a knowledge that the final outcome rests in hands larger than our own.  This would be true of work, education, parenting, friendships.  Follow Jesus faithfully in the next step that is before you.

Other translations say "farm faithfulness" or "cultivate faithfulness."  All of this is very consistent with the Bible's repetitive use of agrarian images.  The farmer plants when it is time to plant; waters when it is time to water; harvests when the time comes.  Faithful to each day's need.  Fret not, o farmer, the harvest, when we are still planting.  Plant faithfully.  The outcome is ultimately something more mysterious than all your planning and machinations.

It's worth recognizing just how counter-cultural this giving up of control is.  Everything in our society screams against it.  To give an example, I never pass up a chance to jibe at my stateside family's attachment to weather prediction.  Multiple apps are consulted.  Plans are made.  Based on information that as far as I can tell, is wrong quite often and everyone knows it.  But such is our desire to control something that surrounds us every day and remains defiantly mysterious.

Where do we find the strength to yield control in favor of befriending faithfulness?  In trusting the promise of the Lord.  I think we would all be more okay with this if the timeline was shorter.  Verse 10: In just a little while, the wicked will be no more.  My first thought is the following humorously cynical meme (overlay text added by me):

The cynical humor is that we drum up some kind of hope or expectation, for which we really have no reason.  Faithfulness and trust requires an object.  Christian faith speaks of a very good reason to be faithful, which is God's goodness, manifest to us all in a thousand different ways, but most clearly in his own sacrifice for us on the cross.  Yes, our idea of timing is dramatically different from his, and the outcomes we are serving may indeed be long after our lifetime or far beyond our scope of understanding.  But we befriend faithfulness to him because he was first faithful to us.


Does Kibuye need to hear this?

Even more than usual, I think.  In addition to the difficulties that we always face, and those which have touched the globe in the past 18 months, this season is a great period of transition.  People coming and going, roles changing.  Work moves forward, but not maybe at the same pace that we had made at various times in the past.  Expectations are always high, and it's currently harder than normal to meet them.

Trust in the Lord and do good.  Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Do the daily work that is all your heavenly Father has ever required of you.  Be faithful in the way, and trust that the end is held by resurrected and now undying hands.


Kibuye North American Connections

by Julie Banks

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9

Whenever missionaries are in North America, we have the opportunity to see friends and family that we often haven’t seen in years.  This is such a blessing and we cherish it.  

Sometimes, however, we do get to connect with our fellow Kibuye missionaries while we are Stateside.  If the opportunity does arise, trust me we try to make it happen!  We halt roadtrips, go off the planned itinerary, just to get a hug.  Or in the 2020 Covid world, an “air hug.”  There is a bond that never goes away when you serve with someone in Burundi.  They are “your people,” and they are able to understand you, your children, and your struggles in a matter of minutes.  

Here are just a few of these happy (mostly socially distanced!) reunions that have occurred over the last year in North America:

Banks family with Alyssa in Birmingham, AL right before she returned to Kibuye in 2020

McLaughlins and Banks in Nashville, TN July 2021

Sunds with Dr. Frank Ogden in Washington 2020

The Bonds went a day's journey out of their way to see us in Springfield, MO in 2020

We were able to share a meal with Caleb and Krista Fader in Michigan - March 2021

Socially distanced Chick-fil-A with 2018 Kibuye intern Rachel Baker in Florida - 2020 

Ted John briefly connecting with surgeons Ben Roose and John Donkersloot in Michigan

Ted John and Carlan Wendler taking Covid-friendly strolls in California

The John family in Colorado with future teacher and teammate, Glory. July 2021

A cold Canadian reunion with Kibuye's first teacher, Shea and the Watts family

Cheering each other up while quarantining in our temporary North American homes - May 2020

We cherish all these reunions in our hearts and look forward to the next meeting… some sooner and some later.  But no matter where we are, or how much time has passed, we will always have that Kibuye connection.