This became clear to me during my recent trip to Haiti where I spent some time with a group of female missionaries who serve there and meet together each year for a Missionary Women’s Retreat. We stayed at a mission retreat center that sits on a hill nestled in a stunning mountain range overlooking the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean Ocean. We enjoyed a special time of worship, studying God’s Word, and relaxing fellowship over three brief days. This group was comprised of women from multiple countries, several church denominations, various age-groups and diverse backgrounds all coming together under one roof to study God’s Word and His message of grace through Jesus Christ.
Upon my return from Haiti, I have thought about one particular missionary I met whose story included serving in Haiti with her parents while she was young. Her return to Haiti came years later, but not without a painful memory she shared with us that happened over 30 years ago. The beautiful ocean that greeted us each morning and bid us farewell each night with a peaceful calm was the precise location where this woman’s father lost his life many years ago. Sadly, she was the one who pulled her dad’s limp body from the ocean only to learn that God had taken him from this life into heavenly eternity. The memorable source of peace for the rest of us that weekend was this grieving woman’s source of great suffering as she was reminded what was lost in those waters. She shed tears telling us about this memory; yet not with a spirit of bitterness, but rather with a spirit of courage and determination that she would not allow this wound to hinder her from doing what God called her to do within a nation she had grown to love.
Standing in the same place that caused her great suffering, I watched our Heavenly Father invite her into His presence through worshiping Him and studying His Word. I believe God was reminding her of His grace and goodness through Jesus Christ. As she was surrounded by the body of Christ, praying over her, weeping with her, and standing alongside of her, the Lord brought this dear child of His a comfort and healing to her wounded heart that could only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit working in her life. She could have ignored the invitation to come into God’s presence in this great place of suffering, but she took the courageous step of faith by going back in order to move forward. What she found in the open arms of her Savior was a new place of refuge and strength renewing her soul to trust the Heavenly Father for healing in the midst of her suffering.
God gave this woman a new memory that weekend to hold on to that included His grace and unfailing love. She was willing to stop running from her past, draw near to Jesus and receive His love for her through His finished work on the cross. For at the cross, Christ defeated sin and death. By Christ’s resurrection, those who have been redeemed can be assured of the hope of eternal life in heaven with Him. Jesus’ greatest place of suffering was followed by His greatest place of glory. Whether God is taking you back to a place of suffering or leading you out to a place of healing, He is faithful and will meet you there with open arms.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us…But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience… In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness…We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose…In all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:18,25-26,28,37)