Frustrated by Life? It Could Be God’s Gift.
Stephen is senior pastor of Trinity Worship Tabernacle, a non-denominational church in Nakuru, Kenya. His story is full of examples of trials giving way to triumph. Here, Stephen reflects on his first semester as a student in the United States. It was January, amid an unforgiving midwestern winter.
Looking out, it was all white–the ground, house roofs, cars, trees, everything. About a foot of snow had fallen overnight, and it was capped with ice.
I did not know what to make of ice.
In Africa, all we hear for the most part is snow, not icy weather. I dressed myself in what I thought was excessive clothing and left my room for the class. When I opened the lobby door leading to the outside, a cold biting chill swept in and tore through my face and nostrils. Within seconds, my whole body was cold.
I ran back to the room and readied myself for the enemy outside. Thank God I had brought some winter clothes with me. You should have seen how bundled up I was when I left the room for the class that morning.
I made it safely to class and the professor was at hand to receive us. Within no time, he was handing out papers, but I had no clue what they were for. He spoke so fast that I missed more than half his words. Everybody else except for me seemed to be in tune with the professor. I loved his enthusiasm, but his accent failed me. He asked that we introduce ourselves and after I was done with mine, he spoke something that was meant to be humorous, but I did not get it!
Welcome to a brand new world, I said to myself. Fifty minutes went by quick and it was time to go for my next class.
I have never been as frustrated and confused as I was during my first week of school.
From dealing with a harsh winter I was inadequately prepared for, to class syllabi that I did not understand, to choosing what to eat at the cafeteria, to the life in the dorm with young adults fresh from high school aged 19-22.
My job at the college cafeteria did not make things any better for me. I just could not come to terms with the level of food wastage that I witnessed each day. At one point I asked God, “Can I really continue to watch this? Is it right to watch tons of food go down the drain every day while many in my country are dying of starvation?”
Even more frustrating was when I personally had to empty tray after tray of good food into the drain.
Halfway into the second week of school, I was still struggling to adjust to the crazy weather, food, and to understand the teachers and the system of learning in American schools. In class one morning, I heard the teacher say it was time to write the memory verse. The next minute, every student except me was busy with pen and paper scribbling down the memory verse. I wondered, “When was this assignment given?” Naively, I whispered to my neighbor seeking to know to which he responded, “It is in the syllabus.”
I hated myself.
Vowing I was not going to let it happen again, I walked up to the teacher and I sought his help in understanding the syllabus. He extended grace to me by allowing me to write the memory verse a week later. I left class that day happy that I finally understood the syllabus, but fearful of the assignments therein and how quickly and close the due dates were falling.
In my room that evening, I went through all my class’s syllabus, highlighting all the assignments and their due dates. I must confess that I was shaken from within. There were numerous books to be read and reports to be written, several essays and research papers to be written, and chunks of scripture memorization.
I worked out a schedule and rolled up my sleeves, ready to give school my best shot.
I called my wife in Kenya and asked her to pray with me so I could wrestle with the giant. I remembered Psalm 50:15:
“Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you.”
My wife and I started calling on God. Within a month, I caught up with all my readings and papers and was no longer being haunted by due dates like before.
The harsh winter weather began to give way to the spring and for the first time, I witnessed life coming back to plants and animals. Trees and plants that had shed their leaves in the fall began to bud. It was exciting to watch the blossoming of a range of plant species, the activities of animals, and the beauty that visited the fields, lawns, and gardens. Before I knew, the semester was coming to an end.
When “finals week” approached, I was scared, but I engaged top gear giving my best to the remaining papers and burning the midnight oil revisiting my notes.
It paid off. A week after the spring semester had ended, I received my grade card and discovered that I had made straight A’s. With the grades was a congratulatory letter from the president of the college–I had made it to the Dean’s List. “O Hallelujah!” I shouted.
What began as an insurmountable challenge had turned into an amazing experience loaded with victory upon victory.
My experience with the harsh and strange weather reminded me how from the beginning, God because of His love for humanity has subjected certain people to some strange and oftentimes distressing circumstances they were never prepared for.
- Noah was given the challenge of building a ship without a slightest view of water nearby. It would have been easy to resign before God was done with the details of the ship.
- Abraham was asked to leave his homeland and people for a place he did not know. He was also asked to sacrifice Isaac, his one and only son of the promise. “Hello! I thought you said that you were going to make me a father of many nations? And now you are asking for the seed through whom this is meant to happen?”
- Moses was confined to the desert sand for 40 years and then asked to go back to Egypt, the very land wherein he was being after for murder. He was under a command, not request, to go back to that land and demand freedom for the Israelites.
- Ezekiel was made to lie for 390 days on one side.
- John the Baptist lived in caves eating locusts and wild honey.
- The virgin Mary was required to put up with the consequences of a strange pregnancy (from the Holy Spirit). An engaged girl today would say, “I’m not ready to give up my fiancé Joe for anything!”
- Paul was asked to take the Gospel to the Gentiles–the very people he and his fellow Jews thought of as “dogs.”
I could go on and on. The point here is that God will sometimes take us to places or allow certain situations and circumstances to befall us, not because He does not care, but because those challenges are teaching and growing opportunities.
God’s promise to you like to everyone else in this category is that He will be with you. I have proved Him true.
So be encouraged. Do not be dismayed whatever befalls you, whatever the situation. God is with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is always faithful, always able, always loving and caring, always there.
For sure, there will be challenges in the beginning. But in the end, you will be amazed and a new song will be on your lips if only you persevere and keep looking up to God from whence your help comes.
(Excerpted from Stephen Muhota, Trials into Triumph, 2017. Used with Permission.)