We never expected immediate results, but this was like banging our heads against a wall -- putting out much effort and feeling great discomfort without any benefit. Growing up in the United States, I had often heard, “If you follow God, He will bless you.” I can’t say I went into missions for what I could get out of it, but it felt as though God was not holding up His side of the bargain.
We were too proud to quit early and tell people we could not handle it, but I figured if we made it through four years we would not have to apologize to anyone—not to our supporters nor mission agency, not even to God. It seemed a little un-Christian to leave God out of the decision entirely, so I changed it to: If God gives me the desire to come back, I will consider it. I thought that was safe enough since I could not imagine ever wanting to return.
We had lived in Ukraine about two-and-a-half years when I visited an old friend in Kiev. I complained freely and concluded, “I am able to live here, but I don’t like living here.”
“Is there something else you believe God is calling you to do?” she asked.
“No, I just want a nicer house and an easier lifestyle. It’s hard being so far from my family, especially with children who grow up quickly without getting to see grandparents and cousins.”
“Does Cory like it here?”
“No. It’s hard for him too.”
“On the one hand,” she said, “I know God is a Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. But I don’t think you can make a decision based on whether or not something is hard. God sometimes asks us to do difficult things. He knows how much you can handle, and He can make up for the difference.”
I went home and read Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Those who give up too soon miss out on seeing the results of their labor.
Moses, the Apostle Paul, Jesus, and others did not persevere because it was “fun,” but because they had a task to fulfill. The effects of sin around us made us uncomfortable, but if everyone already possessed the qualities I valued—integrity, kindness, and hope—our presence as missionaries would not be necessary.
My reluctance slowly changed to renewed trust in God’s ability to provide. As a child I had sung “Jesus Loves Me,” but as an adult, I had to trust that love in the hard places. I had felt called to missions in my early twenties, but that early commitment to Him would not carry me through new challenges unless I leaned on His commitment to me.
When I stopped fighting with God and fearing the future, life in Ukraine became more enjoyable. Our water continued to go off for half the day and the entry to our apartment building still smelled like an outhouse, but I stopped looking for things to justify my discontent. God does bless those who follow Him, but His definition of blessing is sometimes different than mine.