By Joy Lee
Countless times I’ve heard that “beauty is pain”, and I’ve personally come to know that that is sometimes true. And that it doesn’t only pertain to beautiful shoes.
Almost 20 years ago, God called my family to move from South Korea to the United States. So, in June of 1998, my family and I came to this country with nothing but a few suitcases.
In the following years, our family faced what seemed like one obstacle after another. Learning a new language, adapting to a foreign culture and getting new jobs for my parents were incredibly challenging. I recall bursting into tears after my first day of first grade. I didn’t speak English. I had no friends. I didn’t even know what my teacher was actually teaching me. I missed our lives back “home.”
Then, just as we were getting settled into life in America, we received news that made every other challenge seem like a breeze: my mom was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis – a joint disease that slowly disables mobility. We were devastated by this news and heartbroken for my mom whose pain would only grow worse.
In the midst of this, my parents felt the Lord calling them to full-time ministry in The Salvation Army, but knew that it wouldn’t be possible with my mom’s arthritis. So my dad prayed, asking God to heal her by Christmas Day, as confirmation for the calling. However, in the days leading up to Christmas, my mom’s condition only worsened and my parents began to think that maybe God wasn’t leading them to full-time ministry.
On the morning on Christmas Eve, my mom woke up and could miraculously fold her fingers in and out – something she had not been able to do for the past two years. It was something only God could orchestrate. We realized that this was the answer to our prayers of over a year. At that moment, I experienced the presence and grace of God for the first time – as an eight year-old.
Fast forward to today: my parents have now been Salvation Army officers for almost 12 years, currently serving in the metro DC area. My mom is not completely healed of her arthritis, but it has never once been an obstacle to the ministry God called her to do. Each day brings new mercies and joy. My sister and I currently work in Washington, D.C., the capital of the country that once was so foreign, but that we now call “home.”
In the book of Hebrews, God reveals the true reason we have great obstacles and challenges in our lives – through the lives of our ancestors of faith, such as Abraham, Enoch and Moses. In the most testing moments, he teaches us to be reliant on Him and also reminds of us our purpose: to glorify Him. When we are at our lowest, God grows our faith and His glory shines bright when we call out to Him to be our strength and guide. Instead of feeling defeated in the face of hardship, we must recognize the opportunity to praise the One who knows better, has a greater purpose for our lives.
We may not always understand God’s lessons at the time. The challenges of our lives may bring pain. But, there is assurance of a greater purpose, bigger plan. And God has taught – and is teaching me, that His lessons are not always easy. Sometimes it is in our trials and struggles that God speaks the loudest, shines the brightest. God can bring beauty out of pain.
We are called to embrace the challenges, embrace the messy, embrace the learning – and when we do, we learn humility and receive grace. For “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)