Ten years ago I moved across the ocean, from Tennessee to Uganda, full of something that I thought was hope but in reality was more like naïve optimism. If you had asked me then how the Lord might most deepen my relationship with Him, I would have had all kinds of answers. At the old and wise age of nineteen, I thought I knew some things. I was going to give my life away for Jesus. I was going to change lives by teaching people the Gospel of Christ and helping provide for their basic needs. God was going to use me. I was going to be the answer.
I did not know the beauty that would find me in a life poured out for Him, the joy of calling little ones "daughter" and pressing into Him to learn what that really meant, the exhilaration of true and undefiled worship in a sea of people who did not speak the same language but worshipped the same God, the thrill of witnessing a life changed due to basic and simple provision of things such as medical care and nutritional assistance.
I did not know the pain that awaited me on the other side of the ocean, on the other side of humility, where I would recognize just how little I had to offer. I did not know that a baby girl would call me "Mommy" for years and then I would have to give her up. I did not know that I would carry the responsibility of looking into a mother's face and telling her that her child was not going to live. I did not know that I would forge deep friendships with people imprisoned by addiction I could not help them fight no matter how I tried. I did not know that I would provide care, for months at a time, for people living with HIV, desperately begging God to spare their lives, only to later find myself holding their hands as they slipped into eternity with Him on the other side.
And I did not know that in the middle of much pain and grief and loss, I would experience a joy and a peace that far surpassed human understanding. Reality would shatter my optimism, but I would realize that my positivity was only a cheap substitute for true hope anyway. The Lord would take the darkness and make it my secret place, the place where I knew Him more intimately and deeply than I had ever fathomed possible. In the middle of the hurricane that surrounded me, I would experience a true Comfort so deep, so clear, that it simply could not be denied. It was Jesus. He was near.
In our pain, He is near.
During sleepless nights and the death of friends and the breaking of families, Christ is all that remains constant and He is the only One who is sufficient. He holds my hands. He cups my face. He is near, and He whispers of a day when the pain is gone and I can fall on my face and worship Him forever.
Over the years, my packaged faith of all right and wrong answers has been enveloped in a personal touch from the living God. My grief was His grief and my joy was His joy. In my darkness, I knew Him and He knew me. In the midst of pain I would not have chosen, He was real and undeniable and true. When life was not what I expected, where hope was not what I thought, He carved a space in my heart for Him.
That didn't make the pain easy. Some days, prayers seemed to go unanswered and loss overwhelmed our lives. I still lay prostrate on the bathroom floor and beat my hands against the hard tile and begged the Lord that I would not have to bury yet another friend. I still cried tears that threatened to take my breath away as I realized the depth of the suffering of the people around me, grief that would never end, not until Jesus comes back.
No, He didn't make the pain easy. But He made it beautiful. He held me close and whispered secrets to me and revealed things about Himself that I had not yet known. He scooped me into His big loving arms and held me in tenderness unlike any I have ever experienced.
I do not find all the answers to my questions. In fact, I might have more questions now than I did before. But I have found deep intimacy with the One who formed me and knows my heart. He has taught me His secrets in the darkness. He has taught me true and unwavering hope in Him.
Katie Davis Majors appears this Tuesday and Thursday on LIFE TODAY. This is an adaptation from Daring to Hopeby Katie Davis Majors. Copyright ©2017 by Katie Davis Majors. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.