Ruth was planning to use her physiotherapy skills as well as to work with the local church, among the Karimojong in Uganda, when she had to return to the UK for health reasons. She shares how God has spoken to her, and drawn her closer to him through her suffering.
I said my goodbyes and headed to Africa expecting, for two years, to live among an unreached people group. I spent nights sitting on my porch dreaming of all God would do in Kotido. However, God had different plans, bigger dreams, and instead he walked me along a path that involved trauma, loss and ill health requiring treatment and surgery in the UK.
Tears and pain
There were days and nights of tears and times when the pain made me wonder if I was going to be able to keep going. I felt broken, bruised and weak. I was ‘out of fight’. During these times I learnt to lean into that ‘out of fight’ feeling, and in doing so I discovered that God was fully in the fight. I felt a nail-scarred hand clutching mine. He loves me with an unconditional love, and he knows what I need. ‘He led me beside quiet waters, he refreshed my soul’ (Psalm 23:2-3).
“I knew God, but through this suffering my head knowledge became deeper, more beautiful heart knowledge.”
I knew God, but through this suffering my head knowledge became deeper, more beautiful heart knowledge. I learnt that he is kind and that he cares in all circumstances. I grasped the assurance that, if you are his child, he will ‘equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ’ (Hebrews 13:21). I knew from the Bible that God keeps all his promises; but now know this through testing. I held on to some promises tightly: ‘a bruised reed he will not break’ (Isaiah 42:3), and ‘when you pass through the waters, I will be with you’ (Isaiah 43:2). God works all things for good, his grace is sufficient, and his strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I am now thankful for my weaknesses.
Learning a new identity
God taught me that I had placed my identity in what I did, where it could be lost. He taught me that my true identity is in him, I am a ‘daughter of the King’ and that is enough. This identity can never be lost, or changed: it is certain.
For there to be life there must first be death. Jesus showed this on the cross. Through his suffering and death he brought forgiveness and new life. So parts of my old sinful nature have been put to death, but from this there is wonderful new life. My sufferings are purposeful, they are growing and refining my faith, and ultimately making me more like Jesus. Life is a glorious process of restoration and renewal.
This time has taught me that God is faithful. His faithfulness can be seen through the generations and I know he is working all of my story out for good. He has given me everything; he did not hold back his own son to redeem me. If he did not hold back his son, how could I think during these struggles that he would hold back good from me?
I cannot say that this time has been easy or that I faced it all with a smile. The pain was heavy and I am ready for this season to finish, yet I am thankful for it. I will continue to travel this unknown road with my hand in the nail-scarred hand of my Saviour.