Trusting God on the Hard Days

The day in the life of a medical missionary reveals that although ministry lows may outnumber the highs—God is still sovereign.

From Message magazine issue "One Body"

In missions, we are often privileged to witness God do incredible things.

This is especially true in medical missions. Sometimes, we see things happen that defy medical explanation, confounding us to the point where we just have to step back and humbly say, “Look what great thing God has done!” Those are the victory days in medical missions. Those are the experiences when God’s presence is most apparent.

However, for every victory day there are many days of defeat. On the mission field, failures are just as common as successes. In those times, we question what God is doing. Is God great even when he does not do seemingly great things? Can we trust him when he does not heal the patient that we had prayed so fervently for? Is he truly good when so much hurt and heartache surround us?

But such heavy thoughts were far from my mind as I headed to clinic one morning, with pep in my step. The sidewalks were lined with patients who had traveled hours to HBB. Many had already tried traditional medicines and herbs, while others had already sought treatment through the local witch doctors. Having exhausted those options, they were now waiting at the clinic doors, and I was eager to help them.

I might not have been if I knew what the day had in store.

I had no idea I would have to tell one woman she has breast cancer and requires an incredibly invasive surgery—not to save her life but only to provide some relief. Even worse, I had to break the news of terminal cancer to another patient. There was nothing we or anyone else in Togo could do to help her. Her cancer was advanced and extensive, beyond hope. I sat down on a low stool next to her, held her hand, and cried with her.

And yet, there were more: an 81-year-old with severe lung disease, and a 30-year-old who had a hysterectomy following a miscarriage. Astonishment crossed the woman’s face as she learned that she would never be able to bear children. Weeping, she asked if there was some medicine that would help her have a child.

For each of these patients, I had no satisfactory answers for their physical ailments. But I did have the beautiful message of Jesus Christ—our greatest hope. Each case was frustrating and heartbreaking. The suffering was overwhelming. It is in these moments that I cling to the sovereignty of God and tell myself over and over that he is always good, even when I cannot understand his plan or when things do not seem so. We can trust him even when prayers are not answered according to our will. He is great even when we are burdened by so much suffering.

Despite such truths, I walked home that evening heavyhearted. But I was escorted by peace, because my soul is anchored in the unchanging character of God.