Editor’s note: At the end of each month, the editorial team shares a brief wrap-up of how that month’s content encouraged and challenged us.
This month, Denine Blevins of Parakaleo wrote how circumstances in her life have helped her remember that God uses even famine to do his work within us. Famine gradually shifts our focus from exterior markers of success to internal transformation and to the sustenance of God’s word, and ultimately reminds us that one day, we will indeed feast in the house of the Lord.
About a month ago, a medical condition forced me to make a choice: drastically change my diet, or take medication for the rest of my life. For someone who grew up thinking bacon was a food group, switching to a plant-based diet felt like death to me. All the foods I’d never get to eat again flashed before my eyes. How would I ever survive without sugar-laden chai tea lattes and lasagna?
My wise doctor advised me to shift my focus from all the foods I couldn’t eat to all the new foods I could. That subtle change in perspective led to a newfound joy in healthy eating. What I once experienced as famine began to feel like feasting.
Famine, by definition, is associated with a shortage or lack. My relatively trivial example teaches me a broader spiritual principle: by God’s grace, we can feast in times of perceived famine. As I reflect on the resilient hope found in this month’s blog posts from my sisters in Christ, Chan Kailiang and Ma Xiaochen, I was encouraged by how both women discovered abundance during times of scarcity. The famine they experienced ultimately led them to feast.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Famine shifts our focus from ideal circumstances to a transformed heart.
Sister Chan Kailiang writes in her blog post A Person of Confidence, “Although my lips prayed, my heart was focused on hopelessly waiting for God to change my circumstances. The yearning and concern of my heart was focused on how to quickly alter the situation, not on a desire for God himself.”
As someone who struggles with the idol of control, uncertainty and patience are unwelcome friends. I much prefer to make a plan, plug it into a spreadsheet, and show up prepared for whatever test God has in store. Chan Kailiang goes on to praise the Lord who loves her on her most unlovable days and who knows that she has “received the smile of God.” She writes, “Today, I am no longer a woman who waits in desperation, but a person of confidence.” Her waiting is not over. Yet praise pours forth from her lips and her heart today because of what the Lord has done in her. She began to feast on God’s goodness in the middle of her trial – not afterwards.
I’ll likely have to deal with my health struggle for the rest of my life, and taking medication may end up being the best option. My situation may not change, but it’s certainly changing me.
Oh Lord, help me to bear testimony of your grace, even before the test is over!
Famine leads us to rediscover the sweetness of God’s word.
My doctor helped me replace the foods my body craved with the foods my body needed. Many of our cravings in this world–approval, financial prosperity, even ministry success–can distract us from the satisfying word of God.
In her blog Dry Life Rejuvenated, Sister Ma Xiaochen writes, “Twenty years ago, I nearly died from a severe illness. But I thank the Lord for keeping me alive by reliance on his word. I have deeply tasted the preciousness of God’s word.” At death’s door, with no worldly snacks to satisfy, Xiao Hong was filled by the living word. We awake every morning with demands for our attention. Our sister’s words remind us that the enemy uses ordinary life to distract us from feasting with our Father.
Great Shepherd, you prepare a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23:5). Help us to trust you with the demands of the day as we drink deeply from your word.
Famine reminds us we were not made for this.
I was particularly intrigued by the fact that both Ma Xiaochen and Chan Kailiang are married to pastors. We often expect spiritual leaders to have it all together, and pastors’ wives are no exception. As Executive Director of Parakaleo, I’ve witnessed the transformative effect on women in church planting (including wives) when they have access to gospel tools and community. Through our collaboration with two Chinese women who facilitate these spaces, women like Ma Xiaochen and Chan Kailiang can process their blocked longings in the context of God’s bigger story of grace.
As our sisters’ testimonies remind us, we live in a world where good and evil coexist, but one day that tension will be resolved by a God of justice. Until then, we can lament, embrace our limitations, repent, and ask for help (even pastors’ wives!). In community, we can come to God’s table to feast together and await his glorious return.
Denine Blevins serves as the Executive Director of Parakaleo, which builds gospel-based resilience in women in church planting. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband Robert and her attention-demanding dog Sydney.