2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
As I sit in front of this computer trying to gather a train of thought, I cannot help but think, “How did I get here?” — here, writing a blog post about God from my point of view. It is such a picture of God’s amazing grace. For the past four years I have been labeled a “missionary.” I have been to numerous countries, preached in countless churches, and hiked to remote areas; I have met with senators and congressmen and have seen healings and miracles. I have seen hundreds, quite possibly thousands, come to know the Lord. However, I cannot help but look back and think “Why God? Why me?”
For years I lived a double life. On the one hand I lived as a “Christian” and yet I had no real relationship with God. My family thought everything was fine, but I headed down a rough path filled with drugs and alcohol. Eventually God pulled me out of that mess and led me into the discovery of Him.
When I found my way back to God, I knew that He wanted me to go into missions. I contacted Alan Winter at Frontline Missions, met with him and began traveling to Honduras regularly. At first, I felt overwhelmed and under-qualified because of my shadowed past, but Alan saw something in me. God used Alan to show me how He saw me – as His son. I began to realize that when you are in the will of God and obedient to Him that it doesn’t matter how qualified you are or what kind of life you had.
He is in control. When we surrender ourselves to God in the midst of our weaknesses, we able to give our fear and doubt to Him and allow His strength to shine through.
By the end of 2016, I was confident in my position at Frontline and with hope I anticipated all that God had planned for the future. However I had no idea of the challenges that lay in store. Before our first trip to Honduras in January, I received news that a close friend of mine had passed away. Horrified at the news, I contemplated not going on the trip but as the team leader I was needed in Honduras. As I left the country I prayed, “God, please make this trip smooth. I can not take much more emotional stress.”
Three weeks into the trip, I was reeling with shock as a second translator of ours lost close a family member, and suddenly had to leave to be with her family. Shortly after, a close friend and community leader in Honduras was murdered just days after we had dinner in his home. I took my anxiety and worry to God and begged, “Please make this trip go smooth. I can not take much more.”
After picking up our last mission team and heading back to the village where our friend was killed days before, I received a message from a coworker in Colombia. Alan had a stroke while on his way to Colombia with another mission team and had been hospitalized.
In an instant my world was upended.
Alan wasn’t just my boss. He had seen something in me years ago and had trusted me with so much, he mentored me and entrusted me with leading teams. He treated me as a son. I didn’t know what to do with all of my anguish and sorrow and so I did the only thing I could: I clung to God, relying on Him to guide me.
For the next week, news trickled as Alan’s condition continued to get worse. He eventually was life-flighted to the United States. God became my rock in that week because inside I was a mess. When I was finally able to return home, I visited Alan at the hospital. I stood next to his bed, crying and asking God to heal him. I didn’t want to imagine life without my mentor and spiritual father. Alan passed away a few days later.
Shortly after Alan’s death our organization steadily continued on, especially since our biggest trip of the year was nearing. In the few weeks prior to the trip, our core team staff took the lead of this huge trip, a position Alan once held. I took the lead in logistics, and managing the team, due to my frequency leading teams to Honduras. Despite the size of the team I was confident and prepared, or so I thought.
Just three days into the trip, I was coaxed into a game of soccer, which ended with me on the ground holding my knee. By the grace of God there was an orthopedic surgeon with our team, who checked me out and informed me that I had torn my ACL. Again, I questioned God, but I felt the need to persevere. I was able to finish leading the team thanks to my coworkers that co-lead the trip. Just two weeks after returning back to home I was on an operating table.
In the weeks following my surgery, I was at home, alone. The enemy worked his way in, and I became depressed. It was as if all the things that had happened in the previous months all caught up. I struggled as my mind began to go to dark places. I began thinking about my friend’s death, our hurting translators, my friend that was murdered, my boss, my knee, and of the debt that it was bringing me. I remember sitting in the shower screaming and crying out to God because I could not handle it. “ Why is this happening God! I told you that I couldn’t take anymore!” In those moments of darkness when I was at my lowest, that was when I felt God lift me up.
I felt God whisper to me amongst my yelling,
“Joshua, have I left?”
I responded “No?”
Then I heard Him say,
“Through it all, I was with you. I have never left you Joshua!”
Although I am still young, I realize just how weak I am. It has become clear how easily I am tempted and spiritually derailed. So many times in our weakness we join another group at church, or we read the next book. Instead, I think we need to take the same amount of time and effort, and use them to be with God.
I want it to be clear. What I mean is, you sit in a quite space; you turn off whatever electronic device is close, you open up your Bible and you spend more than five minutes with God. The only true medicine to our human weakness is the presence of God internally and externally. This is not a one-time thing either. it’s daily.
When we spend time with God, we grow to know God. I can admit that I am one of the weakest people you will ever meet. I struggle with depression, anxiety, selfishness, addiction, etc. I know that without God present in my life, those weaknesses creep back in and even start to look appealing. In order for me to completely turn away, I have to acknowledge my weakness, realize Gods sufficient grace, and surrender my will and myself, over to Him.
– Joshua Vineyard, October 2017