Faith in Difficulty :: Dylan + Molly, Part 1
We're excited to be launching a new series on the blog called "Faith in Difficulty". In this series, we'll be hearing from various believers who have walked through a variety of hardships that have caused suffering and struggling in their lives. There's so much suffering in the world around us, and it builds our faith when we hear testimonies of how God has carried (and IS CARRYING) our Brothers and Sisters through these challenging experiences. We hope this series encourages you, as you face difficult circumstances in your own life.
Dylan and Molly are serving as missionaries in South Asia with their four children. Here, Dylan shares about some of the unique challenges they have faced in previous years, as well as today.
Can you tell me a little about the struggles you are currently facing?
My struggles revolve around a loss of our home and community a few years ago when our family was forced to suddenly leave our home in India where we had been missionaries for 10 years. This happened a couple of years ago, we have since then relocated to another country in South Asia. This transition back to Asia has compounded and complicated the loss that we feel in losing our home in India and trying to rebuild our lives in a new country. In short we have had a loss of job, home and community, which has put us in, what has felt like, a never ending time of transition.
What's the most challenging part of what you're currently facing?
Guilt, loss of confidence and confusion.
Guilt in the sense of having put our children through so much transition. Loss of confidence in that so much of the life that I knew before this loss has been changed and shaken up. Confusion in that it has been difficult making sense of what God has done, is doing and what he wants from us.
How has the pandemic complicated your already stressful situation?
The pandemic has complicated our transition to a new home in Asia. Since we moved less than a year ago the pandemic has made our sense of loneliness and isolation much greater.
Has God met you in a practical way in the midst of this suffering? If so, how?
Oh wow, yes. God has met me in many ways over the past couple of years that I am convinced would not have happened without experiencing loss. In light of this loss, I have been forced to take a look at myself and re-evaluate where my motivations lie.
Over the past year, I have delved into a time of self-discovery. Many of the things that used to bring me a sense of value and importance (meaningful work, professional success, important role, etc.) in the past no longer were there to give comfort to my ego. As a result, I have been forced to take a long hard look at some of the subconscious things that make me tick.
This shift has opened my eyes to how much God loves me as well as how it is hard for me to accept certain ways that He loves me. This is a work in progress. In many ways, it has felt like a step backwards in my spiritual life. So much of what a used to cling to is gone and much has fallen apart. It has felt like God is slowly putting me back together. It is painful and yet feels necessary. Perhaps this is a refining process.
How do you press into community, even when (especially when) you are “in the thick of it” with suffering?
During this season of loss/transition, the value of community was made clear to me through its absence. Suffering has felt very isolating. It was both something that happened when we lost our home and was also self-imposed through not feeling understood by the people around me. During this time, I have found myself returning to long-term friends and family as an anchor for community. Even rekindling old friendships has been very life giving.
How has God grown your faith through this trial?
God has matured me as a person and a believer through this process. Suffering played the role of a catalyst for me to go deeper in my faith as well as refine me as a person. Many of the things that I was personally confident in were shaken through this process, so I feel that some of my personal weakness were exposed to me in a way that I had not processed before. This has felt like growth but it has felt painful as well.
Is there a verse or story in the Bible that has been a comfort or guide for you in this time?
John 15:4-5, 9 "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and i in you, you will bear much fruit. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love."
What advice would you give to a fellow Believer who is walking through suffering similar to yours right now?
You are not alone. You may feel isolated now but everyone at some point goes through sufferings both big and small. Growth doesn't always feel good. God can be doing something that is both good and painful at the same time.
Anything else you'd like to add?
One thing that I felt during this time of loss was how much my own theology was lacking in regards to suffering. This is something that the Western church is lacking. Even though it is not often said out loud, there is a subconscious thought that when things are going good then God is happy with you, but when things are bad something is wrong. This is not what people going through hard times need to hear. I find comfort in reading Scripture through the eyes of a suffering soul. As you do, you see such a thread of death and rebirth, loss and renewal, disorder and reorder in Scripture. Finding this truth helped me so much during this time.
Dylan, thank you so much for your honesty and openness in the way you shared about all that God has done, and is doing, in your heart through these trials. The Lord's leadership is perfect, and I'm so encouraged to hear how the He is shaping your heart through all you've had to walk through. Praise the Lord!
Stay tuned for next week, when we'll hear from Molly!