1 a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand 2 something not understood or beyond understanding: enigma 3 profound, inexplicable, or secretive quality or character
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers... Romans 11:25And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ... Ephesians 1:9
...the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. Colossians 1:26
A book* I recently finished pointed out that the apostle Paul uses the word mystery about 21 times to refer to the hidden purposes of God...that is, that God doesn't always explain the 'whys' to some of life's problems. And that is a mystery to us!
Sometimes God clears up the mystery quickly, in a matter of hours or days...but then other times, mystery can last for years as we wonder what purposes God has for certain situations and/or problems in our lives.
"When walking in a fog the normal clues that orient us are gone. We look for some sign to show us the way, but none appear. Heaven seems silent. We search for meaning in life, but the fog hides it. We plead, "God, why don't you do something?" Our feelings tell us that God must be somewhere else or he doesn't care. The mind, grounded in the Scripture, fires back, "Not true." God has promised to never, not ever, leave us. And so the feelings and the mind thrash about, each submitting evidence for its position.
Sooner or later, often later, the fog slowly lifts. Things begin to make sense. Understanding replaces confusion. Confidence replaces doubt. Belonging replaces a sense of abandonment. Hope returns. God was there all along, working actively, not only on your behalf but in ways that enrich the many other servants he loves. The fog obscures his presence and his purposes, but when it finally clears, we realize that God has kept all his promises to us (see Josh. 21:45). And on those occasions when his people go to the grave with pieces of their past still shrouded in fog, he remains the loving, faithful God worthy of their trust even though the fog never lifted. While not desired, walking in mystery shouldn't be feared; God, though not visible or audible, walks by our side, and the walk is always worthwhile for the patient, faithful servant."
Duane Elmer in Cross-Cultural Servanthood-Serving the World in Christlike Humility, pg 185
It was so encouraging to me to read these words as I considered the mystery that Miguel and I are living with now in regards to our ministry. All we've ever wanted to do was work in tribal ministry in Venezuela...and yet eight months after we arrived in Venezuela back in 2005, the government there basically shut down tribal missions as we knew it and greatly limited tribal ministry opportunities for us. After an exhausting couple of years in limbo, many moves, and attempting to minister to the Yuana people from a near-by town, we returned to the U.S. for a family reunion and for the birth of our fourth child. Once stateside, I quickly realized that I was not in good shape to return to our ministry in Venezuela, or to any ministry, for that matter. I needed time to recuperate my strength, recover from the stress of our time in Venezuela and the depression that plagued me, and work on some weak areas of my life. Miguel and I also needed to work on our marriage, which had been severely strained during that time. God worked tremendously in our lives during that time and I'm ever so grateful for it.
After taking nearly a year and a half of combination medical leave/transition time, we arrived in Mexico to 'get back to work', although not in the ministry of our choice and not really knowing how long we would be here. We would love to return to work in Venezuela, when and if the political situation changes there, but so far that hasn't happened. As we begin our second year of ministry here in Mexico, we have had renewed discussions about ministry once again that haven't always gone as smoothly as we'd hoped. It's hard to live in mystery, not really knowing why we are here instead of there, how long we will be in mystery, and what the purpose is behind all that's happened in Venezuela. We grieve as we remember our Yuana brothers and sisters in Christ that we left behind, even though we knew them but a short time. We grieve the loss of what could have been an exciting, fulfilling ministry among the Yuana and it is so hard to understand why things happened the way they did. It's hard to understand why God would allow me to go through such a difficult time personally in the last few years...although at times I do catch glimpses the work God is doing as He strengthens me in His truth and love through the struggles.
I don't know when this mystery will be revealed or when the fog will lift...I long for the day when we know what our ministry will be and can finally move forward with a purpose and a plan. I think both Miguel and I long for things to make sense and for a true sense of belonging. In the meantime, however, it is reassuring to hear that walking in mystery is not something to be feared and that the walk with God at my side will be worthwhile as I remain His patient, faithful servant.
*Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer...I am also looking forward to reading the companion books of Cross-Cultural Conflict and Cross-Cultural Connections.