The past several weeks have been trying to say the least. Missionaries and other seasoned believers have told us countless times that we should expect oppression right now and they were right. It has been a confusing time and our faith has certainly been tested. We find that God is stripping us of almost everything He allowed us to gain over the past 6 years of our marriage and it is humbling to watch Him take away what He has given. We are experiencing many little deaths in the process as we grieve the loss of things we have come to know and love from job security, to our feline companions (our cats Roary and Tierra), to friends we may not see again, to pieces of furniture we’ve had since our first year of marriage.

I have been meditating on some passages in John that the Lord has used to keep me grounded. In John 10 Jesus talks about how He is the Good Shepherd (which makes those who trust in Him His sheep). I always resonated with the fact that sheep are supposedly dumb animals, but I recently learned that sheep actually learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd so that they will respond only to that voice. It challenged me to reflect: how well do I “recognize” (v.3) and “know” (v.4) God’s voice? If I did, that would mean I am listening for Him, hear Him, trust Him, and believe what He says. Practicing this gets complicated for my human mind and heart when God chooses to be silent or when there are countless other voices vying for my attention. Jon and I have not heard God’s voice audibly, but in the recent past He has convinced us to follow Him to Italy. Lately though many other voices of doubt have been making it difficult to trust what we believe we heard. Jesus says, “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). I’ve had to sift through many voices that purpose to steal me away from Him and it’s been a messy process.

Thankfully, as Tim Kellar said, you are not saved by the quality of your faith, you are saved because of the object of your faith – the redeemer; the God who is fighting for you.” The Good Shepherd protects me, his sheep, from thieves and robbers (Jn 10:11-18). He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else” (Jn. 10:28-29). I may wander, get distracted, or listen to the wrong voice, but Jesus calls me by name and it is He that holds me, not the other way around.

In His grip,