I recently finished my nine-month term in Kibuye, Burundi.
As excited as I was to go back to family and friends in the land of Krispy Kreme and Chick-fil-A, I could feel my heart breaking as I prepared to leave.
Before going to Burundi, I had never travelled outside of North America. But that didn’t stop me from deciding to go for nine months! I do not speak French or Kirundi (the local language), I had never met anyone on the team, and I was coming all by myself to teach the missionary kids.
I also had no teaching experience. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing!
A few years before this, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. And about a month before leaving for Burundi, my anxiety kicked into high gear.
I felt like I was going to throw up almost every day. I normally love food, but not only was I not hungry, the thought of food was revolting. I was dreading saying goodbye to my loved ones for nine months.
There were days when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go through with this. I was terrified of the future and what I had gotten myself into.
Had I known what that was going to feel like before signing up, I probably would not have agreed to go. But I don’t regret going—in fact, the opposite is true.
In Our Time of Need
A few weeks in, one of my teammates asked me what was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
Without hesitation, I said it was coming to Burundi. I knew so little about where I was going and what I was going to be doing. But I have been blessed to see God’s grace carry me though.
I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to see the incredible work going on in Burundi. I was only able to do that by God’s grace.
Because we do not have to take the future nine months at a time.
Max Lucado has a wonderful book called Traveling Light (I highly recommend it!) in which he examines the 23rd Psalm. Each part of the psalm corresponds to a burden we often bear unnecessarily.
The chapter about the burden of anxiety really resonates with me. He begins with some examples that seem absurd: a four year old who worries how she will ever pass a calculus class or an eight year old who worries if he’ll be a good parent. That’s simply ridiculous to think about. They don’t need to be anxious about such things yet.
Psalm 23:2 says, “He leads me beside still waters.”
God is not behind us, waiting for us to move forward, but rather He is in front of us, clearing the way and encouraging us to follow. He gives us guidance when necessary.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The key phrase is “in time of need.”
Just as an elementary school teacher would not teach his students what they need to know in college, God does not give us all of the help we need for the future right now. He gives wisdom when the time comes.
This means by the time that four year old gets to calculus and that eight year old becomes a parent, they will have what they need in order to be successful in their calling. By the time I arrived in Bujumbura (the capital city of Burundi), God had given me the strength I needed to get to that point. He continued to provide what I need as I needed it throughout my time there.
As I reflect on my experiences in Kibuye and look ahead to the next chapter in my life, I can feel the anxiety welling up inside me again.
How can I manage my anxiety during yet another major transition?
Every single day I need to remind myself of God’s promises.
I’m working on abiding by Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Instead of splitting my mind between today’s to-do list and tomorrow’s tasks, I need only focus on what’s happening now.
There are so many things we could worry about –
How will we cope with the loss of a loved one?
What will we do if we lose our job?
How will we possibly get through all of the hardships that will inevitably come?
But we can rest in the fact that God will provide help at the right time. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and we serve a God who keeps His promises.
Where He calls us, He will equip us.