Yesterday was a significant day. Ten days earlier [ Blog – Living in hope ] we were praising God for the provision of an affordable flight back to Australia on March 28. For several months, the situation had seemed quite hopeless, or at the very least, confusing. There was little we could do to resolve the issue, as the future was so uncertain. The airlines had no answers; governments were reacting to events on a day-to-day basis; Google searches revealed only more grey rather than clarity.
In such a situation, we quite instinctively turned to God. We knew we weren’t alone in this, as many of our supporters responded to our requests for prayer. When the reduced price flight to Brisbane unexpectedly appeared on January 7, we saw this as God’s intervention.
Then yesterday happened.
Just after midday, the SMS message came through advising of the cancelled flight. Checking our email account provided several phone contacts and a link to enquire further, but when we did finally get through to someone, there was little that could be achieved on a Saturday. The airline’s customer service staff member did lodge a request to transfer our booking to an earlier flight scheduled for 6am that same day…. but there may be a catch.
When we checked the airline’s online booking system, the 6am flight shows available seats at a price four times what we have already paid – almost $1,500 more for two passengers. We won’t know what the airline is prepared to do for us until Monday afternoon at the earliest, so again, there is nothing to do…… except pray.
And there is the first of several issues that have us examining our hearts. Has prayer become an “exception”, something we turn to when there is nothing more for us to “do”? Prayer should be more than the joker we play when there are no other winners in our hand. It should instead be our default lead card.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Even as we pray about this matter, our thoughts instinctively turn to what we want God to do for us. Obviously, we want to be able to board the earlier flight without having to outlay any more funds. We perhaps justify this thought by rationalising that it will be a fantastic account of God’s provision in response to prayer. But is that particular outcome God’s will for us in Christ Jesus? If you missed it, that was issue number two.
And perhaps issue three is the one which challenges us most frequently – are we giving thanks to God in all circumstances, even the times that leave us feeling stressed and frustrated? We have had a number of these circumstances lately. Poor health, disrupted schedules, and travel concerns have been the norm for us these past five months. We certainly thank God for the moments of physical restoration and times when the stress is lifted, but do we remain thankful with hearts full of joy towards God during the in-between times?
The joy Paul writes of is true joy – not the kind that we show by singing “I’m H-A-P-P-Y” through gritted teeth, but joy in knowing the God of peace regardless of how the world is crumbling around us. This kind of joy prevails whatever confronts us, and does not need to sugar-coat reality to get through the day. To explain this last point, here is the detail of a possible twist in the tale.
After the initial reaction to the SMS message and a call to the airline, a thought popped into my [ Keith’s ] head– if we are shifted to the earlier flight, then this may solve another problem we have been facing. The Australian government requires a PCR COVID test within 72 hours prior to boarding an international flight home. A senior nurse working with another mission organisation is currently assisting us in arranging for the tests to be conducted at a nearby hospital – at no cost – prior to our flight. Unfortunately, it looks as though these tests can only be provided on the Thursday morning before…. around 78 hours before our original departure. We are still waiting on confirmation of this, but it is a potential sticking point which, once again, is out of our control. The only apparent alternative is holding off and having the tests in a private hospital in Port Moresby on Friday….. at a cost of $575.00.
Wow! What if God shifts our departure time and we end up obtaining our PCR test 69 hours before our flight. And if He does this without us having to pay more for the earlier flight, how awesome would that be? What a cause for joy!
Do you see the shaky ground we can easily find ourselves on? Our minds race to how God could be working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Applying this verse correctly would take another whole ‘blog sermon’, but it is enough for now to point out how this conflicts with the words from Thessalonians. We don’t need to pre-read the script; we shouldn’t mentally toy with the idea of choreographing God’s working through the situation. We should simply be joyful, prayerful, thankful, and rest in God’s will for us.
So…. in that context, would you pray with us?
- that we be resting in God through all of this turmoil.
- that we be gracious in our dealings with the airlines and medical institutions – whatever the circumstances. [ Keith – this is a BIG one for me personally. Perceived poor customer service generally ‘pushes my buttons’ ]
- that we focus on being physically able to return home to family and friends – unlike many other Australians overseas at present – and give thanks for this. The financial cost is simply a reality of travel in the present situation.
- praise God for the people who are doing what they can to help us.