For years, my husband and I each prayed for God’s timing and the right opportunity to move overseas to work among the unreached.
For many reasons, God did not open doors while we were single. And for many reasons, he did not open them in the first years of marriage either. The door finally opened when we had the most to lose, humanly speaking — a home, young children, unique educational opportunities for them, stability and favor in an interesting career, and a church family we loved and gladly gave ourselves to. That was when God called us to go.
My husband had visited the country once before, but I knew almost nothing of the place we were moving to except that the need was great and that the culture was both suspicious of foreigners and hostile to Christ. Some loved ones questioned our judgment, our value system, even our sanity. Do you have to go to such a risky place? Should you be doing this when you have a young family?
Some even sought me in private, appealing to my mother’s heart. Why make the kids suffer? Why are you throwing away so much? Indeed, why? We asked the same questions of ourselves and of God in prayer. Father, is this really what you are calling us to do? As we searched Scripture and wrestled in prayer, we sensed God asking us in return, Do you trust me? Am I worth what it will cost?
Will You Trust Me?
When I was in high school, my uncle took my brother and me backpacking in a beautiful alpine mountain range. On our way back, unbeknownst to us, we took a trail that required us to cross a ravine. The only way forward was across a fallen tree high above a river rushing with snowmelt. The trunk was narrow and its strength untested. If we fell in, especially with our heavy backpacks buckled to us, we could have showed up in the local obituaries. But we had little fear. We accepted the challenge and ambled across.
“Only a false gospel preaches that we can follow Jesus and avoid pain and loss in this world.”
Motherhood has changed the way I think about that tree. I probably would not take the same risk today with young children who depend on me (much less ever lead them across it) — unless God himself promised to go with us.
Some gospel risks feel like this tree, suspended above real dangers and yet the only path between where we stand and where we think obedience lies. Every mother who has been reconciled to Christ and entrusted with “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19) feels at times the tension between fear and gospel obedience.
God, how can I move to that part of town, even if it’s for a church plant? How can I open the safety of my home to complete strangers? Don’t you know how difficult life will be if my husband takes on more ministry? What if my neighbor never speaks to me again after I share the gospel with her? Do you know how messy the foster-care system is? Why would we walk alongside that troubled family, and invite trouble into our home?
Even believing mothers can want to shield their families from all risk, but only a false gospel preaches that we can follow Jesus and avoid pain and loss in this world.
Mothering in the Trenches
Christ requires that his followers (yes, even mothers) deny themselves and take up their crosses (Matthew 16:24). Only those who fully trust his next words would dare to follow: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Even if obedience results in immediate loss, do we trust its end will be life and gain, as he said?
The greatest question in the face of risk is not what we might lose but whom we will believe. And our trust has no better — no other — resting place than “our Father, our Redeemer from of old” (Isaiah 63:16). He is good and does good (Psalm 119:68). With him is wisdom, might, counsel, and understanding (Job 12:13). He holds the outcome of the dice and the whims of the king in his hands (Proverbs 16:33; 21:1).
“Even if obedience results in immediate loss, do we trust its end will be life and gain?”
And she who hopes in God will not be found cowering in the basement, shielding her children. She will be in armor out on the battlefield, asking in the face of danger, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). Whether she is in a tree-lined suburb, a concrete city, or some foreign country, she will teach her children not to run from the risks of serving Christ, but instead to pray, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Am I Worth Your Risks?
Before our move, I acknowledged with conviction God’s worth and, by extension, the worth of his gospel message and church. I trembled, but I confessed he was worth all we were about to risk.
Over a year in, as the real stresses of living in a foreign culture took their toll (and as I hoped to shut the chapter on the sickest year of our lives), I found myself nursing my family through even more rounds of severe illness. I found myself in the emergency room again, holding my smallest child, with no answers as to what was ailing her. Listening to the doctor try to explain to me that she might also have a problem with her kidneys, I lost sight of his worth.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, Paul describes some of what he suffered as a servant of Christ: labors, imprisonments, bodily injury, deprivation of basic needs, and the dangers he faced from both people and nature. In Philippians 3:3–6, he further details what he lost for the sake of Christ: birthright, pedigree, identity, education, accomplishments, and the commendation of men. And he concludes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Even when the Holy Spirit testified to him that “imprisonments and afflictions” awaited him in every city, he declared, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). In Christ, the apostle saw such a magnitude of worth that even his very life was worthless by comparison.
Your Next Risky Yes
We cannot dismiss Paul’s choices as less practical or easier just because he was an apostle (and a single man with no dependents). Paul’s valuation of Christ transcended his season of life and calling in life.
Holding my child in the hospital, I was looking only to things seen and had lost sight of Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). I had to pray — and ask others to pray — that God would enlighten the eyes of my heart (Ephesians 1:18) so that I could endure “as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
How then do our risks weigh against the worth of Christ? They are but light, momentary afflictions preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). They are pennies swallowed up by the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
Fellow mom, though I may be oceans away, neither of us raises our family in the country of our citizenship. You also face many risks as you serve Christ. Do you trust him? Is he worthy? If so, what is a faithful, risky yes you can say to him today?