I have participated in church mission trips since I was twelve. I look back with fondness on every experience, but there was one that transformed my heart.
As a child, I used to say that I would be a hairdresser, an astronomer, a teacher, or even a biologist when I grew up. But when I participated in the Juntos por tí (Together for You) mission in Lima, Peru, I realized that my heavenly Father was showing me a different path: taking care of others.
The following year I began a pre-university preparatory course with the intention of going into nursing. However, that still wasn’t God’s plan. After a few months of studying, I started to ask myself, “Why don’t I go into medicine?” But when I researched it, I thought it would be impossible. But then, the idea of going to medical school in another country, where conditions were more in-line with my family’s budget, presented itself. From that point on, I started to pray more and more for God’s will to be fulfilled, not mine.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.Ecclesiastes 3:1
It was on the above verse that I based my plans.
The day came when this plan began taking place. Small steps, then larger ones, leading me to begun my medical studies in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
During the first days of school, everything went smoothly. I learned to like the language (Spanish), I began gaining friends, and the church was not too far from my new place. In summary, everything was going well, until the trials came. I remember doing poorly on my exams, missing my family, and having rows of bad days all in a single month. I was uncertain as to whether I really should be there, but my Heavenly Father filled my heart with peace. Little by little He began answering the prayers of supplication I offered up to Him, and things began falling into place again.
The writer Ellen White tells us that “Nothing can do us real good without the blessing of God. What God blesses is blessed. […] When we devote ourselves to the affairs of the kingdom of God, He will mind our affairs.” When I reflected on this passage, I was able to realize even more how God’s purpose is better than we could ever imagine.
Once I decided to surrender my future to the service of God and be thankful for His guidance, things began falling into place in an “inexplicable” way. The trials that once plagued me were no longer a problem. The homesickness was still there, but God calmed my heart. And the negative experiences that comprised the bad days are now lessons learned.
I learned to thank Him even for the small trials He allowed me to go through. Though at the moment I would despair, not knowing what to do, I found myself, afterward, thanking Him for the experiences that allowed me to grow and mature.
We don’t always understand or appreciate trials and, I admit, it does sound a little strange to do so. But how many trials has God used to draw us closer to Him? How many times has He sustained when we had no strength left?
God permits us to be placed under circumstances that will test us, to increase our love and to perfect our trust in him. […] Trials will come, but they are an evidence that we are children of God.Gospel Workers, p. 441 (1892)
The Lord wants to take care of everything, but that doesn’t mean that life will be a bed of roses. And precisely because it isn’t, we learn to seek Him more. Every time I remember all I’ve been through, I can do nothing else but thank God for being at the beginning, middle, and end of everything.
Dear, Reader! God has an unbelievable purpose for you. But when trials come, we forget that even these serve to transform us if we allow Him to.
I have the assurance that God has guided me and shown me the steps I must take. Should He someday direct me to another path, I will still thank Him for my time on this one because it was on this path that I learned to leave everything in His hands.
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.Matthew 28:20
I truly hope that we can be grateful for everything, for at each step God accompanies us and will be with us—from the biggest decisions to the smallest details.