Shaken to Salvation
Betrayal. Job loss. Foreclosure. Loss of a loved one. Culture shock. Do turmoil and instability seem to mark the lives of those you pray would come to believe in Jesus? Have you wondered how God can use instability to draw people to Himself? The good news for us is that God is in the business of using trials to accomplish great good, exchanging death for life .
Let me tell you what I mean from the story of my own life. I grew up in Kenya where, at the time, 85% of Kenyans professed faith in Christ. It was also a requirement in Kenyan schools for students to take a course in “Christian Religious Education (C.R.E).” I grew up in a Christian home, and all of my friends and all of my extended family members were professing Christians. Mine was a childhood saturated with the gospel message.
As much knowledge as I had and was made available to me, I believed deciding on a religion was too weighty an undertaking for a child. So, while I consistently and excitedly learned about Christ, I treated my learning more as a fact-finding mission for that adult version of myself who’d decide what to make of all that data . My life, though far from idyllic, was stable. I, therefore, felt no urgency in becoming a disciple of Jesus .
Cracks in the Foundation
At the age of 13, my mother and I relocated to Zimbabwe when she took a job with the United Nations. Leaving everything and everyone I knew behind was painful and felt unfair, and it was the first time in my life I felt destabilized. But I acculturated fairly easily to expatriate life. Two and a half years after living in Zimbabwe, I moved to the United States. My mother flew with me to the USA, but she only stayed for three weeks as she still had a job in Zimbabwe. So I lived with my aunt, uncle and their two children. It would be two years before my mother permanently emigrated to the United States.
Shaken to the Core
It was jarring to emigrate from a collectivist culture to an individualistic culture. An adjustment I am frankly still resistant to, to this day. The experience was like whiplash. I felt stripped of my identity. I’d become a racial minority practically overnight. I went from being an expatriate with certain status due to my mother’s profession, to being almost invisible. The greatest ache was not having my mother to weather these changes with me. It was the first time in my life I had felt so lonely and unstable.
I cried and prayed earnestly for months as I sought to the best of my ability to adjust to this new and strange world. I began to ponder the truths I had been steeped in as a child and how God had been the only one who had remained near and stayed the same.
It was on an ordinary Sunday as my aunt, uncle, cousins and I made our way into the Cathedral for mass that my pontifications came to a climax. I stared at the large crucifix behind the altar in the Cathedral, considering the cross. The goodness, love, mercy, justice of God paired with the ugliness of sin-my sin- seemed to crowd out the congregation’s liturgical prayers. I knew then that to believe the gospel and follow Jesus meant surrendering every bit of myself, every day of the week. I could not continue my practice of attending Church on Sunday and being lord of my own life the rest of the week. The loneliness I’d been experiencing and the instability of my life at the time had driven me to a recognition that only Jesus was stable. I also recognized that choosing to be a disciple was not to be left to a future time I had not in fact been promised. Instead, it called for a response in the present. So, with this conviction, I became a disciple of Jesus. And my life changed forever.
Christ: The Unshakeable Foundation
We may differ in our personalities and our cultural norms, but we all long for stability. That solid ground beneath our feet which will withstand the ebbs and flows of life. Relationships, possessions, dreams and ambitions are some of the avenues we may take to achieve this stability. However, we will find that if we seek ultimate stability in any of these avenues, every last one of them will fail us.
In contrast to this, Jesus offers us stability in himself and his gospel message. In Matthew 7:24-26, Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
The truth is that the storms of instability will affect us all. As Christians, we need to continually learn to lean on Christ as our stability, both for salvation, and for everything we need every day. And, as instability hits those we love who do not yet know him, we can point them to the only sure foundation we know, Jesus Christ.
Cynthia grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, lived in Zimbabwe and currently resides in Portland, OR. She is a graduate of Western Seminary with a Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership She is passionate about studying the Scriptures, sharing and applying its truths to whichever context God places her in. In her spare time, she enjoys running, reading, and creating puns. She is a Registrar and attends Trinity Church of Portland.