Fear Doesn’t Get the Last Word

The first time I met Robert*, he sat quietly with shoulders hunched, looking like he wanted to melt into the white plastic chair we’d offered him. His gaze fell to the floor, eyes telling a story devoid of hope or joy. Most men his age would have traveled alone, but Robert came with his father, who now spoke on his behalf. The reason was clear – a massive tumor protruded from Robert’s jaw, hindering his ability to eat or speak, and bringing him ridicule or rejection from most of society.

The two had traveled several days from their village to reach our hospital, in hopes that Robert could receive surgery and leave his tumor behind. For the next few days as he awaited surgery, shame and fear kept Robert secluded in his room, hidden away from everyone else in our center.

Rachel Olson Fear (1)

But when the morning of his surgery finally came, Robert was nowhere to be found. He’d heard the fearful rumors of his village louder than the reassurances of his father. He ran away at the last minute, terrified of the one place offering free relief from his burden.

When Robert disappeared, his father spent every minute trying to find him. After about a week, Robert returned in spite of the fear and had a successful surgery. Not only that, but a few months later he returned with 4 friends from his village to see if they could also receive help for their medical needs! Once crippled by fear, he now wanted others to know the freedom he’d found. I hardly recognized the young man in front of me who now stood tall and confident, grinning ear to ear.

The details of Robert’s experience go far beyond my ability to understand or relate to – so I want to be sure I don’t minimize that in any way when I say this – but on some level, there’s something about his story that resonates. The voices of our culture, people close to us, and our own doubts and fears speak loudly at times, telling us what to value and how to live; clamoring for us to cling to the security we think we can see, even in times when God is calling us to embrace risk and make decisions that require complete trust in him. Whose voice will we hear louder?

Fear Rachel Olson

When I look at fear through the lens of this story, it becomes powerless. I see the reflection of the One who is worthy of my love and trust. While we may not always understand what he asks of us and it may be a long and windy road before we see the purpose in some of it, he is good and his ways ultimately lead to freedom. May we set aside our own village rumors and trust fully in the reassurances of our Father.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the United States after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

 

*name changed

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God is My Provider

One of the most powerful ways I have seen God’s love and presence is through his provision. Whether it’s a physical need or something deeper, God knows it every time. He discerns what things I think are needs that really aren’t, and He also attends to the deep needs I don’t even recognize are there.

As I think back over the last few years, I am in awe of the many ways God has personally provided for needs in the world around me.

I have seen God provide:

Rachel Olson Character of GodHope to people who had none.

Healing to patients who seemed far too sick to find it.

Unexpected gifts to meet financial needs at exactly the right moment.

Tangible comfort and peace in times of grief.

Opportunities for connection between believers on opposite sides of the world who needed each other’s community.

A place for me to put down roots and find community with other believers after the go-go-go atmosphere of the last few years.

Ways for old things to get stirred up from the nooks and crannies of my heart so they could be resolved.

Sometimes in the moment it’s hard to see what God is doing, or it seems like he’s taking a lot longer than we want. But our God sees every need, and he provides for it in his timing.

When the Israelites left Egypt and wandered the desert, they had a hard time finding food and began to question God. Some even talked about going back to Egypt. But God saw their need and showered down manna from heaven, providing the exact amounts they needed to be filled each day. (Exodus 16)

When Abraham agonizingly prepared to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, he held fast to faith that God would provide another way. At the very last moment, God sent a ram in the thicket; the perfect substitute for Abraham to sacrifice. (Genesis 22)

Character of God Rachel OlsonWhen Adam and Eve disobeyed God, all of creation fell into chaos. On our own, we had no hope of recovery. But God provided his own son, making a way for us to be restored to him. (Genesis 3, 1 John 4:9)

It is in our God’s nature to provide.

I write all of these stories and moments down so that I won’t forget. Each one is a tangible reminder to me of God’s sovereignty, his nearness, and his goodness. It stretches and strengthens my faith to see that every time I step out in risky obedience, God meets me there and provides for my needs. He is present, at work in our world, just as he was in Bible times.

Remembering all the times God has provided in the past gives me patience and faith for tomorrow. Whatever life brings, it gives me hope to know that I can always depend on the God who can do more than I might ever ask or imagine; who loves, and does not hold back what I need—even when my deepest need required his Son.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

5 Ways Bitterness is Made Powerless

Over the last few years, some frustrating situations have jarred my expectations and pushed all the wrong buttons. Over time, as these things stacked weight heavier and heavier in my heart, I realized part of the reason they were so hurtful was because they were dredging up unrelated pain from years ago. As I thought over how old things were still affecting me and all the ways I wish they had been different, I found bitterness festering.

Rachel Olson BitternessThankfully, I had a couple wise friends who helped me sort through the whole thing, instead of just addressing the bitterness at surface level and having the same underlying issue continue to pop up over and over again. Here’s what I’ve learned through it:

Pour out your heart to God. Don’t stuff the pain and bitterness or try to muster your own strength to fix it. It won’t do any good trying to pretend or force your bitterness away. Bitterness loses its strength when we can see the situation through God’s eyes. Give God whatever mustard seed of trust you have and ask for his perspective. Ask him to work in your heart and the situation.

Share with a trustworthy friend. Vulnerability can be hard sometimes. It’s so valuable though to have a wise friend to listen, pray with you, speak truth when you need to hear it, and offer insight that you might not see on your own.

Sometimes even just by saying something out loud, helps me see an issue from a new angle or realize it’s a lot more trivial than it seemed in my head.

Ask what’s at the core of the issue. Is it unresolved conflict? Your own pride? Someone else’s sin against you? Unrealistic expectations? Disappointed dreams? How might you need to sort these things out with God, and possibly another person?

If there are action steps, take them. Maybe it’s a process that only needs to take place between you and God in your own heart, and whoever else was involved in the situation never even needs to know about it. Maybe going forward, there’s a change you want to make in how you relate to a specific person, or how you handle conflict.

Or maybe there’s an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with someone. It can be tempting to look ahead and say ‘that’s too hard’, or ‘I don’t think that will make any Bitterness Rachel Olson (1)difference, so why bother?’ But you’ll never know for sure until you try. When I look back at times in the past when I used that logic, I wonder, ‘would things have been different if I had just tried anyway?’

Ask God to move! When we allow God into life’s hard places and give our pain to him, he is able to carve beautiful things. It doesn’t have to go to waste or fester into bitterness.

Today I can look back with thanks for what God has done through those more recent situations I disliked so much. It’s a long process, but the baggage I didn’t know I was carrying is already a few pieces lighter. Where old hurts sparked bitterness, God is bringing beautiful new growth, life, and redemption one day at a time.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

Thriving in Change and Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.

Rachel Olson ThriveMeanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.

What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.

When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thrive Rachel OlsonOver and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.

This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.