If you don’t know her and love her already, let me introduce my little sister, Jess.
Jess is 11 years younger than me – and she really is a walking miracle. When we were little, my mom was very sick when she had my brother, so she was told it was not safe for her to have more children and her tubes were tied. Joe and I didn’t know this – so we would pray for a brother or sister all of the time growing up. When I was 11, the Lord answered our prayers and gave us our miracle little sister – my mom was one of the very small percentage of women whose tubes grew back after they were tied. And I know it is silly, but it is true when I tell you that Jess, since conception, has been very special.
She is one of those people who is a light. She is beautiful and wise beyond her years, compassionate, loving, joyful, sweet, humble, and loves the Lord with all of her heart. Although there is a huge age difference between us, she is my best friend.
In a month, Jess is leaving for a great adventure. A 11-month mission trip to 11 countries. You can follow her blog here. The Lord has called her to it, provided a way for her to go, and she is following Him in obedience. I am incredibly proud of her. It is going to grow her and stretch her and change her in ways we can’t imagine. I think it will be one of the absolute highlight years of her life. On one hand I am very excited. But what I think the Lord has showed me in recent days is that the way will probably also be difficult. Eleven months. Jess is kind of a homebody. She loves her nieces and nephew and hates to go even weeks without seeing them. Much will change in the eleven months she is gone. And she isn’t going to resort locations – she is going to hard places throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. She will see great suffering. She will hold sweet orphans and then have to leave them. I believe she will join in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His name and His glory.
I watched this amazing video from John Piper about suffering yesterday, and then I did a quick word study of the word “suffering” this morning. It really is a privilege, if we can wrap our minds and hearts around it. And it seems that suffering somehow unlocks a completely new and amazing level of intimacy with Christ.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:2-4
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:19-18
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:11-12
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13
I am very proud of my sister. She has sacrificed to do this – she has sold almost everything she owns and given it all to the Lord. I know this year will be difficult. She will suffer. But she is going to have the privilege of living out, in small measure, the suffering of Christ. And I know that through her sacrifice, the love and freedom of Christ will flow onto all of the precious people she comes into contact with. Many of them will meet Him because of her sacrifice. And I will, from here, be praying for her and try to join her in walking that suffering. Because only in realizing that our treasure is in heaven and this world is not our home is true purpose in life and joy in Christ to be found. And Jess is on the right path – she gets it and I am so blessed to be her sister, friend, and supporter. She is, in leaving and following Christ, a greater model for my children than she ever could be staying here and playing with them everyday. We will make sure they know what their aunt is doing and how important it is and how right it is, and maybe someday they will follow in her footsteps.
I respect my sister. Though she is terrified, she is brave. Although she is shy, she is bold. Although she loves being at home, she is leaving to live in a tent for a year. Although she is weak, He is strong. This change in her is all because of Christ. And that is beautiful.