In a Limited World, A Limitless Love
– Emma Li
In a Limited World, A Limitless Love
The confusion for Mary and Joseph at the time of Jesus’ birth must have been overwhelming in every which way. That season of life had to require a level of faith and understanding that trusted and gave way for God’s work to be done. So when danger emerged in king Herod’s scheme to destroy Jesus who had been born in Israel [Matthew 2:13-18], Joseph’s mission took a turn. For that given time, he was to escape with Jesus and Mary to Egypt until it was once again safe to return back to Israel.
This was the story told when, in tears and shock, I pleadingly confided in my leader for guidance after news of COVID-19 and closing borders reached L.A. For a year prior to that point, I had spiritually digested my call as a believer to pack my bags and serve God away from home. I was eager with the anticipation to fly to the Philippines for two months, visiting orphanages, slums, the red light districts, and incarceration centers to evangelise to those in places of social and political disadvantages. But when the virus was rapidly spreading in March of 2020, this reality was suddenly put to a halt.
In my heart, I could feel a sense of self-righteousness creeping in. After all, my intentions to do missions in the Philippines was good work. Surely, it pleased God to see me serving Him wholeheartedly. Why would He prevent a way for me? But the hardening of my heart rejected all notions of Christ’s love for those same people I sought to serve. In my self-righteousness, I began to separate the ministry work from my actual faith in who God said He was. People became projects, and my weakness became a selfishness instead of an opportunity to trust in the Lord.
It is with the hope that many of us will not have to face a pandemic year again in our lives, but this as we know, has never been a guarantee. When our present hopes and dreams are put on hold, and ministry and mission opportunities are called to look different, God’s promises stand truer and fuller than ever. This pandemic year has revealed that our perceived senses of stability– whether it be our jobs, families, education, or even ambitions for ministry and mission work– are limited. We are, in fact, limited because we are human and live in a human world. And though we are separated by geographic borders, susceptible to illness and death, and inherently broken in our ways, the absolute and utter goodness of God is amplified. When Jesus spoke to His disciples and declared the Great Commission, He confirmed that by no means are believers called to lead missional lives by their own strength and own accord. In the uncertainties of our futures, Jesus says “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” [Matt 28:20].
Like Martha in Luke 10:38-42, there were aspects to her duties that carried her away from Jesus. And when Jesus called upon her and said “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one”, He revealed to believers that while service is necessary and important in His ministry, being His disciple and leaning into His teachings comes first, and all other things are secondary. Unlike Martha, Mary was willing to fall at the feet of the Lord for comfort in the midst of her deep grief. Likewise for those whose opportunities halted during the pandemic, our call as believers included the essentiality to seek comfort and strength in the Lord and in Him alone.
Finding a missional life in an uncertain world begins by laying down one’s own expectations. It recognizes the constraints of human efforts, but remains confident that God is not confined by those same limits. When we recognize that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are higher than ours, everything changes. Opportunities to outreach and evangelise do not always require work outside of our borders, but can start in places and people closest to us who need saving. In a limited world, pursuing God’s love is without borders. In the same way, extending His love to those around us is not as out of reach as we may feel it to be. Press in and grow attentive to the people, places, and things He puts on your heart, embracing that it is we who are limited, but He who is great with a love that endures.