'Suddenly the spiritual rug was pulled out from under me …’

Sarah’s story | The soothing of a sore soul

“I grew up in northern Pakistan, in the foothills of the Himalayas. My parents were both shaken to spiritual life and gripped with a passion to share the love of Jesus. They set off by boat, as American missionaries, to Pakistan in 1953 and they planted spiritual seeds there for 38 years.

In Pakistan, boys are celebrated and girls are secluded at home. My earliest memories are of high courtyard walls. Goats, water buffalos, men and boys were on the other side of the walls, but I was mostly behind them. Our immediate family was my community, and later we lived in a hospital community. I went off to boarding school, at a tender age, to join my older brothers. The school was set in beautiful pine-forested mountains. We had the usual angst, sadness and joy of any community but also armloads of godly mentors, many of whom became lifelong friends.

After high school, I went back to the US. I threw myself into work, study and exercise, but I could have washed the floor with my many tears. I missed community. It felt like there was no overlap between my two worlds. No doubt I had unrealistic expectations. Making deep friendships takes a long time. And I took for granted the kind arms that had settled me through childhood change. In my pain, I gripped onto God. Sometimes that’s what faith looks like – God reinforcing our baby grip. Looking back, I know that’s what he wanted – and that’s what he still wants today. He wants us to stay fiercely dependant on him, like lambs with their shepherd.

No sooner did I make some dear friends, when … I was swept up by a knight in shining armour. Mike was his name and Australia was our destination. We married and moved into a Bible college community, which I loved. Some years later, we returned to Pakistan as missionaries with our two little boys. Our two girls were born there. Returning to Pakistan wasn’t a surprise. We knew God was preparing us to help train leaders there in the church. Pakistan is not a place where you see Gospel results quickly. I had seen that with my parents. And yet, they faithfully continued planting seeds … which we did too.

While we were in ministry there – Mike was training pastors and I was teaching their wives – a dark cloud enveloped me. One day my lesson with the women was on the Lord’s Prayer.  “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one …” (Matt 6:13). I went home and, suddenly, it was like the spiritual rug was pulled out from under me. The words of Jesus’ prayer were barely off my tongue, and I felt it was a sham. I just didn’t believe it: not the Bible, not Jesus, not prayer. Obviously, I stopped teaching.

A few people close to me knew of my doubts. Mike kept telling me that God had me in his hand. This dark night of the soul continued for several years. My younger brother sent me a copy of The Message, which had been recently paraphrased. I chewed on it like baby food … and it was in that fresh, unfamiliar language that I re-met with Jesus, through the Gospels. Then I got to Romans. It seemed like each day, God gave me a little pearl to treasure. The fog was slowly lifting.

Pat answers (from me or anybody), are not enough to soothe a sore soul in a dark night. But, truthfully, God is in control the whole time. He’s with us through our deepest, darkest valleys, and following him is not a sentimental trip. Looking back, I know this path was part of the shepherd’s journey with me. He grew me that way. Does the shepherd love us? Absolutely. But he wants us to be completely dependent on him. He wants us to be like a lamb, with its shepherd.”

Sarah’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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