During our Chinese New Year vacation this year I read Come Rest With Me: Experiencing Intimacy with Jesus Through God’s Rest by Bryan R. Coupland. As I’ve been thinking about Christian martyrs who stayed strong in their faith even unto death, I decided to look back over Coupland's book quotes that spoke most deeply to my heart. My favorite part of the book was his interview question and answer section with the wives of the three NTM missionaries (Dave Mankins, Rick Tenenoff, and Mark Rich) who were kidnapped by guerillas in
in 1993. Painfully, closure did not come to their families until enough conclusive evidence confirmed that the men were no longer alive and memorial services were held in 2001. Coupland asked the wives how they experienced God’s rest during that horrific time. Panama
Nancy Mankins said, “I clearly remember the first few days after Dave, Rick, and Mark were kidnapped, when the thought kept ringing in my ears, ‘From the view of eternity, this is going to be all right.’ That thought brought spiritual rest to my heart. I knew that God had a plan and that He was in control, so I felt peace in my heart that even though I could not understand, I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, without realizing it, I had put a time frame on God’s plan. Even though I initially felt peace that from an eternal perspective, whatever God chose would be all right, I didn’t realize that His plan would include waiting without knowing for an indefinite period of time. I thought that Dave, Rick, and Mark would be released with in a month of so, like other New Tribes missionaries had been. Or even in the worst-case scenario, we would learn that they had been taken home to be with God. But I had not considered the months, much less the years, of not knowing whether they were alive and suffering or in heaven.
My world came tumbling down and I began to lose it spiritually speaking. I was afraid and angry. I was afraid that God was not hearing our prayers and I was angry at God because He could do something and was choosing not to. Once I realized and admitted to myself that I was angry with God, I was able to deal with it by reading the Bible and choosing to believe the passages that tell me that God loves me. He is compassionate; He is able; and He does hear my prayers. The kidnappers took away my husband and my ministry but they could not take away my ability to choose joy as I walked through this trial. I had to daily, sometimes hourly, choose to focus on God. I had to choose to read God’s Word and believe that God’s Word is true. I had to choose to pray and choose God’s will over my own. Often at night, I would find that my hands were clenched into fists and I would have to literally pry them open as I prayed for the ability to relinquish my husband again to God and His will.”
Tania (Rich) Julian said, “To me, it didn’t feel, at the time, like spiritual rest. It felt more like a battle and God was giving me strength to stand firm and be a good soldier on the actual night of the kidnapping. The choice to believe that God is who He says He is, and not choose to base my joy and peace on the feelings I was experiencing, was what it boiled down to for me. It is hard to relinquish what I feel is only fair and right for me to experience in my life. I didn’t feel like I was asking for too much and yet I was stubbornly demanding that my life turn around and start going the way I wanted it to go. It was only when I gave up completely my hopes and dreams for my life and my future that I would sense God’s peace and love and joy flowing freely again.
It is hard to explain but it wasn’t giving up in a defeated sort of way—it was in a sweet way saying to God, ‘I trust You more than I trust what feels good to me right now and I sincerely believe that You have good planned for me through this situation.’ It was not a ceasing to care or disengagement—it was a deep sense of giving up what felt vital to my well-being, in order to take hold of something bigger, deeper, and better than what I thought I wanted...
There were periods of time when I couldn’t seem to understand anything that I read in the Bible—it felt cold and unintelligible. I learned to be okay with those times and keep reading—to ask God to help me to be able to understand again and He always did. The Bible is not some magic potion that you read and then your circumstances are gong to seem okay all of a sudden. It is full of stories of God and His strength and wisdom and power. I read it and was encouraged; I read it and was confused; I read it and got frustrated; but in the end, reading the Bible caused me to ask God for help in understanding and applying what I had read.”
Coupland emphasized the difference in “what we are responsible to do—choose to exercise trust in the person of God Himself and His Word—and what God is responsible to do; provide us with His divine rest.”
He says, “Notice the same principle in Hebrews chapter 11. In verse 34, we read of faithful brethren who ‘escaped the edge of the sword.’ Several verses later, we read of other faithful brethren who ‘were put to death with the sword.’ What made the difference? The sovereign will of God did!
What is the lesson, then from these three young men of faith in Daniel chapter 3? It’s that God is able to deliver me out of the worst of circumstances. But if He doesn’t choose to, I can, as His child, rest in His Father-love, knowing what I do about Him, both from Scripture and from what He has personally taught my heart. Will I choose to be content with His choices?”
No matter how bad our circumstances are, the truth is that we can choose to be content with God’s choices for us. He can give us eyes of faith and a heart of trust, so that we can say along with Nancy Mankins, “From the view of eternity, this is going to be all right.” And along with Tania (Rich) Julian, “I trust You more than I trust what feels good to me right now and I sincerely believe that You have good planned for me through this situation.”
God is good. All the time.
Let us “rest in shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)