Red dust rose in thick clouds around our vehicle as we bounced along the African country side. It was so thick that my partner and I had to tie handkerchiefs around our mouths and noses so we could breathe. Our clothes were red, caked with dust, as were our faces and our hair. Even my hat couldn’t keep it out.
We were on our way to a village in the wild parts of Ghana in West Africa to speak and lead a rural pastors’ conference over the course of several days.
At one point, before we set out, we had been told that it would only take a few hours to get to our destination. As we left Accra, Ghana’s capital city, we again asked Ntim (pronounced “in-tim”), our driver and my interpreter, just how long it would take us to get to the village.
“Oh, it’s just here,” he replied, waving his hand vaguely towards the north. “Just here.” And then Ntim smiled encouragingly at us.
In America, when someone says, “It’s just here,” he generally means that it isn’t far away. I have found, however, that concepts of time and distance in Africa aren’t so easily nailed down. We drove… and drove… and drove. We eventually ran out of daylight and continued to drive on through the inky darkness of African night.
Every so often we would ask variations of “How much farther is it to the village?” and the reply was always the same. “It’s just here. Just here.” While there was still light, we could see him pointing in what I suspect was a random direction but it might have been right for all I knew. And then, when it was dark, we could no longer see him pointing or smiling. We simply envisioned it. In fact, when it was abundantly clear that we were lost, we kept asking how much longer until we would arrive just to tease him.
Thirteen hours after we left Accra we finally reached the village in which we were to live and work for the next several days. Those who were expecting us did not seem to notice how late we were (again perhaps reflecting a different mindset than I’m accustomed to by people in the United States when I am running even just a few minutes late). They helped us to settle in and made us feel right at home right away.
Ironically, when our conference was over and we headed back to the city, it took us only about three hours to get there. I guess that Ntim was right: it really WAS “just here.”
What this has taught me is that while waiting on God can seem like a hard thing to do, His presence and His blessings are always “just here.” They are on the road ahead and God, who can see the landscape of our lives infinitely in every direction, is going to be sure that we ultimately arrive at the destination that He has promised us as His children.
On the one hand, I mean heaven. What He has done through His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross is completely satisfying when it comes to resolving the ponderous weight of shame and the atrocity of sin in each of our hearts (and, yes, I mean EACH of our hearts – see Romans 3:23). And it’s a good thing, too. After all, God’s Word says that sin’s fruit for us is nothing less than spiritual death – separation from God forever (see Romans 6:23). But His gift to us, through our genuinely placing our absolute faith in His Son as Lord and Savior, is eternal life – an eternal home with Him (also from Romans 6:23).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (said Jesus in John 14:1-3 NIV).
On the other hand, in addition to heaven I also mean that there are along our paths in life the various blessings and encouragements we need to persevere in hope and faith. Albeit, they are often not WHERE we look to find them and generally not WHEN we would like to have them – but they are always brought to us in the forms that most deeply do for us what our eternal Father desires and arrive when we most genuinely need them.
“Lord, how much farther must I go before I reach the destination?” we inquire of the Lord. And He gently says to us, “It’s just here, child. Just here.” And we keep on walking through our valleys and over our mountain tops, never quite able to see too far ahead. This is how He keeps us looking to Him for daily guidance and daily provision (spiritually and physically).
“Do not worry… for those who do not know the Lord run after their worries and your Father already knows what you need. Instead, seek first God’s will for your life as you strive to obey His Word, and He will see to it that you have all that you need” (adapted from Matthew 6:31-33).
So watch out that you remember WHY God sometimes allows pain and sorrow to appear in your life. Remember WHY He permits what seems to be a legion of uncertainties to buzz around you. Remember and do not lose heart or focus. Those who do not know the Lord can be expected to give up and turn back. But if He truly is your Savior, then there is no chance that He could ever forget you or forsake you.
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One Who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV).