The saying goes, you can’t give away what you don’t have.
Often preachers will use this explanation of how an encounter with the love of God is first needed before we can share it with others.
As a recently graduated teacher of young people, I am familiar with the sense of desperation and search for acceptance that many of us possess as we grow. Although I have been a believer for close to a decade now, there are days when fleeting doubts remind me of these seasons in my life.
I recall finding it difficult to connect with others and to reinforce how a Holy God could love them, when I had trouble believing it for myself. As I reflect over my journey, I am amazed at how central a knowledge of God and an encounter with his love is to our ministry.
A scripture that has always intrigued me and gripped my heart is found at the outset of 2 Corinthians: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
It is clear that our experiences are not wasted, but are in fact steppingstones into intimacy with God and deeper connection with others. In the year prior to leaving Australia for South East Asia, I was confronted with my own painful trials.
Beginning with understandably very concerned and resistant parents, I found myself in constant prayer, desperately seeking guidance to help me navigate these tensions. Further exasperated by an oncoming pandemic and other family health challenges, it was here I asked the Lord to give me a greater revelation of who he was.
I was on a mission to know how ‘long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:18). Although it was painful, I know that this made way for me to become ‘rooted and established in love’ (3:17) as I prepared for the future that lay before me.
The time spent in prayer and conversation with my parents prior to departure actually gave me a deeper desire to share the love of Christ! I would ask God to help me know he is near. It took time, but as he drew near in this season of confusion and poured his love into my heart, little by little the dissonance and fear I experienced gave way to child-like faith.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that knowing the love of Christ more deeply allowed me to really learn to love others as I was first loved. Perhaps it is an ongoing journey we have as believers. Though as Jesus warns Martha in Luke 10, sometimes we can get lost in our work for the Lord.
In retrospect, only when I took the time to be still and seek God first did I have the words and encouragement to share in my work. One of the mentors I have been fortunate enough to gain in this time said that we are most effective when our ‘doing comes from our being’.
Being a teacher, my job is layered and multifaceted. Students come with varying perspectives and life experiences. This diversity is even greater in an International School setting, requiring prayerful consideration of how to express biblical values cross-culturally.
Thankfully the school leadership is well aware of this challenge and has provided ‘Third Culture Kid’ awareness training to help us understand our students and to communicate our values. I am ever grateful for this opportunity to imitate the love of the Father, who does not judge based on outward appearance. He searches deep within our hearts, knows us, embraces us with his unchanging love – and enables me to do the same.
In time I have had increasing involvement in the local church, facilitating Bible studies and the like, but I have really needed to cultivate my relationship with the Lord first. Perhaps that’s why scripture warns us to guard our hearts above all else; our work and everything we do certainly flows from it.
It has been a joy over the last year to grow increasingly closer to the community here. Thankfully our former team leader put us in great stead when he reminded us of the value of love. Above having all the perfect words and language (although this has helped), if we do not have love we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13).
Louise is a Partner in South East Asia.