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Lessons in Pain and the Kindness of God

Lessons in Pain and the Kindness of God

Christar worker Hillary* had already invested several years into ministry in the Middle East when the pain began. She’d arrived on the field in 2011, motivated by a love for God and a desire to serve Him, completed language study and had begun to see the progress in her ministry that she’d long hoped and prayed for.

But in 2013, Hillary’s back began to hurt. At first, she assumed she just needed rest, but the aching persisted, and along with it, a deep exhaustion. After home assignment in 2015, she went back to the field, trying to push through, but overwhelmed and discouraged that she couldn’t get through a day without severe discomfort. By 2018, the pain was too much.

After five years of suffering, Hillary finally got an explanation for what was going on in her body: mold poisoning. The mold in her apartment was the culprit for her debilitating health issues.

She sold everything and moved to a new apartment in her city, hoping to escape the mold. Despite her determination to “suck it up and push through,” she soon realized she would have to leave the Middle East. Though her back had improved, she still felt paralyzed by fatigue and brain fog.

Worn down and discouraged, Hillary went on medical furlough in November 2019. Nearly a decade of effort building relationships on the field seemed overturned by a medical condition that could have been prevented had she just lived somewhere else.

As Hillary began her furlough, she discovered the best mold poisoning specialist was located in Richardson, Texas—the very city where Christar’s U.S. Mobilization Center office is located! She arranged to travel to Texas to start two months of treatments in late January 2020, and then head back to the field.

But as Hillary’s scheduled treatment was about to end, COVID-19 turned the world upside down. She found herself stuck in Texas, quarantined because of the virus. What was intended to be a brief stint in the United States became more than nearly nine months of frustrated waiting.

But God was in it all, and looking back, Hillary sees His provision again and again. She also recognizes how the Lord has used her experience to teach her and give her opportunities to learn.

Throughout her struggles with mold poisoning, she was limited by her poor health and unable to accomplish what she was used to doing. She wrestled with discouragement. She worried she would lose her language proficiency and fall out of touch with relationships she had worked hard to develop on the field. And she grappled with the reality that her experience hadn’t lived up to her expectations for life and ministry in the Middle East.

As Hillary relates, life is a series of our expectations, and our decisions are so often driven by what we believe life will bring us. We anticipate a driver’s license, our high school graduation, a college admission and career milestones. We imagine relationships that may lead to marriage and maybe to kids. We look forward to a job that brings purpose, a home to settle into and a way to make our lives matter. “We expect progress, growth and motion,” Hillary says. But, she adds, “Sometimes, when we think we should be experiencing resolve in our expectations, we instead find ourselves stuck and discouraged.”

Yet Hillary wouldn’t trade her experience, and she is quick to articulate a long list of ways she has grown and what she has learned through it. She dealt with loneliness and doubt, and realized how often she was stuck in a pattern of demanding things of God. She shares how she moved from a mindset of saying to God, “don’t you dare,” to an attitude of “Lord, wherever and whatever you want”—an outlook that’s rarely reached without the scars of the story that led to this place.

Hillary has the story and her heart is brimming with thankfulness for where God has brought her. She asks, “Could it be that to be stuck, even from sickness, is a form of the kindness of God?” Her question is rhetorical, but the answer is “yes.” At times God’s kindness leads us to places we never anticipated or keeps us mysteriously stuck in the most unusual scenarios.

She took that story with her when finally, in October 2020, she was able to head back to the field. In a COVID-dominated world, this involved arriving in the Middle East only to enter into weeks of lockdown again instead of diving right into serving in the country she sorely missed and ministering to the people with whom she longed to share Christ’s love.

Now, out of lockdown, healthier and stronger, Hillary is deeply grateful for this journey, for her chance to just stop and rest, waiting for God. And she gives thanks for a deeper understanding of His kindness, gleaned through the scars.

Participate by Praying

  • Praise God for enabling Hillary to return to her field of service, and pray that she will be able to continue working there.
  • Ask God to continue showing His faithfulness to Hillary, including by giving her a glimpse of the fruit that He is producing in her and those around her.
  • Pray for other workers who are going through similar struggles with health necessitating that they return to their sending country.

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