Once more, with any feeling

By the time you read this I will have dispensed with a house of belongings, left the best job I’ve ever had (enjoy, new assistant Briefing editor!), kissed my nephews goodbye, and cried all over my parents at the airport. My husband and I are moving from Australia to Mongolia, to join with the body of Christ in Ulaanbaatar. And the question on the lips of most people I meet is “Wow, are you excited?”

You’ve probably been asked that question yourself at some point. It’s what we ask engaged couples, children starting school, soon-to-be parents, and soon-to-be-empty-nested parents. And it’s just as probable that you answered “Yes, very excited”, no matter how you really felt about it. It’s the expected response, the “good” to the shop assistant’s “how are you?”.

Well, I was excited about three years ago, when we began making plans. Now I feel ill-equipped and scared, bemused that God thinks it’s a good idea to send someone as inflexible and introverted as myself to the mission field. Leaving the comforts of a first world life, the joy of friends, and the sensibleness of Sydney’s climate does not excite me (-40ºC, Mongolia? Really? Whose great idea was it to settle here?). I’m terrified!

So what now? Should I call a halt to proceedings? Does feeling nervous mean it’s all wrong?

Helpfully, I have found many examples in the Bible of people who were called to do things out of their comfort zone and who were wary about it. Esther wasn’t itching to approach the king. Gideon was somewhat reluctant. And, of course, Jesus himself was both obedient and sorrowful at Gethsemane. But what did he do that night?

He fell on his face and prayed… “Not as I will, but as you will.”… Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed… “Your will be done.” (Matt 26:39, 44)

If you’re concerned about following a command in the Bible, or taking a step in life that would seem to be for God’s glory, or anything at all, then the very first thing you should do is to talk to the one you are seeking to serve. It seems obvious written down, but I know that I can easily continue to let my fears roll around in my brain for hours before it occurs to me to speak to God about them. Somehow it can seem more productive to dwell on the feeling and what might get rid of it—as if I can solve it better than the creator of the world and the one who knows exactly what’s best for me. Whatever I’m feeling, it’s preferable by far that God’s will is done over mine.

Okay, so I’ve prayed. Am I excited yet? Well, a little bit. Praying did remind me of all the great reasons why God would want us to go. Am I still terrified? Well, a lot. But I don’t think it’s a sign to stay home. If I waited to want in the flesh what the Spirit wants before I obeyed, I’d still be waiting when Christ returns. No, instead we are slaves to righteousness, happy or sad.

It’s clearly not sinful to feel nervous or scared while obeying God; it’s probably not even unusual! We are not told to be mindlessly thrilled. What we are to do is love God and keep his commandments. But how can I do this when I’m feeling unsure, when I know the right thing to do, but waver?

John has the key ingredient to Christian obedience in this life:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)

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