In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life.
This is definitely not a word I would choose as a key word of my life. Nor would you, I imagine.
Yet surely it is important to character growth and development.
Over the years of my life and ministry, the major arenas for persevering have been three: dating/marriage, parenting and career/ministry. Lesser challenges have come in health and finances, though those can be significant for many. There are certainly others, such as racism and persecution.
I will share an example from each of these three major opportunities I have had to persevere—and the amazing gifts that have come from them.
When God called me to serve him in ministry, my fiancé did not sense the same call. In the end, I sadly broke my engagement and went happily into my writing and editing ministry career. I loved it.
But I did want to get married, and secretly harbored an expectation of God: “I gave up a husband for You, Lord, so don’t You owe me one?”
But year after year passed, and no husband. I became absorbed in my ministry and began to think I might never marry. Over time, I was at peace with that possibility.
Then I met Steve Douglass. We became friends and began to spend time together. A remarkable young man—and I allowed myself to fall in love. His parents’ unhappy marriage, however, made him very cautious. Years passed.
Several times I had this conversation with God: “Either let us get married (my plan and a good one) or let us break up, but I won’t stay in this uncertainty, this not being in control of my life.”
His response was the same every time: “Judy, I love you. I have a great plan for your life. This is where you need to be—to learn that you aren’t in control and that My way is better.”
It was five years of waiting, but he was worth waiting for.
Every parent must have stories of persevering through situations with their children. I could tell quite a few stories, but one transcends all others.
When our two daughters were 10 and 12, God sent us a 9-year-old boy who had grown up in difficult circumstances. The county had removed him from his mother and we provided a foster home for him, and later adopted him.
The early days of adjustment were challenging, but just the forerunner of what I have called a very long journey through the wilderness.
It was a long perseverance.
But what a gift he has been. I have been driven into the arms of my loving Father. I have learned to really pray. I have grasped the reality of unconditional love—there are no conditions. And oh how I have learned to live out and give out the grace and mercy God has extended to me over and over.
My career has been in 50 years of ministry. My primary early efforts were in writing and editing, and those continue to be major arenas for me.
I have always had significant opportunities to use my gifts, grow in responsibilities and develop as a leader. Yes, there were some ups and downs, but I always felt I could do anything God called me to do.
Yet I observed that was not true for all of the women I knew in ministry. Reading, conversations, observations, study in God’s Word, prayer—and I grew in my conviction that God was eager to see His daughters develop, use their gifts and contribute significantly to building His Kingdom.
It’s been a 40-year perseverance. A major turning point for the women in our ministry was the Global Women’s Leadership Forum in 2004. Some 450 staff women from 95 countries gathered for a week of leadership development. You can read more about the GWLF here and here.
We gave them first steps in personal development and leadership skills and sent them home to start fires of opportunity for the women in their nations.
And they did.
Now, 10 years later, we are finally seeing the results of that effort. All across the globe, the women of our staff are working out of their strengths, leading in substantial ways throughout the ministry and contributing to fruitful and expanding winning, building and sending for Christ.
These are just glimpses of some my persevering efforts in God’s journey for me. My natural instincts would be to opt out of these challenges. But when I see the person God has grown me into—and the role persevering has played—I would not trade any of it.
Though I do wish I would learn a little more quickly.
What about you? Where have you had to persevere?
C2014 Judy Douglass