The morning was crisp. The wind blew gently. From outside, the overwhelming choking smell of sheep urine and compost manure filled every inch of the house. Maria had always hated waking up to this odour. She knew her uncles were in the living room, so she went and greeted them before she was called to do it. From her short moments with them, it was clear they were hungry; they had come far too early. She knew it would be wise not to even ask. So, she immediately ran to the kitchen to make breakfast. She hated starting the fire. She always joked with her friends that there was no difference between nicotine smokers and village girls who inhaled copious amounts of smoke every morning trying to start a kitchen fire. The thought brought a mild side smile to her lip.
As Maria sat and watched the pot of water boil, she recoiled back to that dark corner of her mind and hated her life. Years ago, after finishing her Secondary School studies, she desired to one day leave the village and move to the city. In her reverie, Maria would imagine marrying a handsome agro-vet owner, and their kids would be too fat to work on any farm. She did not wish the life she had on her kids. Her favourite spot to go to had a great view of the tarmac that left the village. She liked going there at sunset and imagining that the sun would set on her life in the village one day—every time the sun set on her dream.
There was a time when she got very close to leaving. She had met this young man, Karis, from the city. They would walk along the river banks and talk, mainly about the city, for hours. Whenever he came around, he always brought her dresses from the famous market in Nairobi, Gikomba. They soon got into a romantic relationship. Then, the inevitable happened. Maria got pregnant. She delivered the news to Karis with a lot of excitement. He promised Maria that he will be preparing a place for her and the baby in the city. Then, when ready, he would come for them.
Months later, Maria got the news that her ticket to the city had succumbed to a lung disease due to working in a cement factory. Her heart sank. She ran to the river and cried her eyes out. But, yet again, the village had wrapped its arms around her and had refused to let her go. She now had to face her uncles, even with her broken heart and confess how she got pregnant out of wedlock. This made Maria feel even worse. Her hopes. Her dreams! It all seemed bleak. She couldn’t take it anymore.
Sadness, disappointment, anger and despair have been common emotions ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Due to the sin, curses were accorded to each participant: the snake, the man and the woman (Genesis 2:18-19). This opened humanity up to profound suffering and death, Maria being an example. As human beings, we are bound to encounter suffering and all kinds of anxiety because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Thankfully, God did not abandon us to our own devices.
As we continue to interact with God’s Word, we will learn that even as we face suffering and hardship, we are not alone (Romans 8:31, Psalm 124:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:16). Before the foundations of the world, God knew what would come, and so he devised a plan to save man from sin. God sent his Son Jesus Christ to face his wrath in our stead (Acts 16:30-33, Romans 8:38-39, Philippians 3:4-11).
Jesus, Our Satisfaction
In John 10:7, Jesus assures he is the good shepherd and that he is the door, and whoever enters by him would be saved and would go in and out and find pasture. When you get to verse 10, Christ says he came so we may have life and have it abundantly. In John 6, after feeding the five thousand, in verse 35, he proclaims to the crowd, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:25-59). In as much as he gave all those people food in abundance, he most importantly reminded them that nothing would satisfy them as well as he does. In the case of Maria, her joy, sadly, was pegged on going to the city with Karis. See how crashed she was when her earthly idol failed to come through. When God is seated at the throne of our hearts, even when life hits us hard, and it will, he will always be there to comfort us with his life-giving Word (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 6:25-34).
Even as we suffer, we must remember that God still has a good plan for us. It is never in vain. James 1:2-4 reads, consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Because God is on our side, we can trust him to give us joy, even in our suffering. And when all is said and done, may the truth of Psalm 16:11 be our daily encouragement: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.