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Joy in the Journey

Tags: Aviation, Partner to Partner,
POSTED ON Jun 01, 2016 by Adie Leedahl

Not in Our Own Strength

I still can't believe that the accident only happened less than two years ago! And here we are back in Papua New Guinea. Jon is healthy, walking and flying the Kodiak—and our family is back and now living at NTM’s field support center. God is so good!

If you had asked me two years ago to go through this journey, I would have run the other direction screaming. We've been asked a lot: How did you do it? How did you have such strong faith? How could you find joy in your circumstances?

Let me just say, not in our own strength. And we didn't have joy all the time. No way. Oh boy, it was hard, so hard. It was tough. It was yucky. But God showed Himself so strong and so faithful.

And you know what? God allowed this crazy accident to happen, and there was a comfort in that. Even in the chaos—between the surgeries, the infection and everything—we could see God moving and working in the little miracles and the big ones. Doctors were commenting on how Jon shouldn't be alive, different organs shouldn’t be working, things just shouldn't be going well, but they were. It was powerful to see the doctors mystified at God's handiwork.

What Legacy Am I Leaving Behind?

All I can say is that we had a mustard-seed-sized faith, and asked God to help us trust Him. And He did! Elisabeth Elliot says it well: “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

Now that I have seen firsthand how fragile life is, I see that God only gives us today. So enjoy today! Live fully today! Live joyfully today! But it also makes me ask, “What is the legacy I'm leaving behind?” How about you? If the Lord decided to call you home today, what would be your legacy? Would your family be able to say that you were full of faith, had a deep love for God and for others, and had such joy in your journey? That has been a challenge God has given me this year. And it makes me stop in my tracks with some of the choices I make, the things I say or do.

The Leedahl Family

Choosing Joy

So you may be thinking, “OK, Adie, so practically speaking, how did you find joy in your circumstances?”

This might sound like a cliché, but it was a choice, a daily choice I was confronted with. Some days I chose to worry, fret and have a giant pity party. Why did Jon have to lose his leg? He was doing something for the Lord—flying missionaries. I mean come on! Why would God stop that to take his leg? To take Jon and me away from the field? This is craziness! This doesn't make sense.

Trust me when I tell you I had many hard, hard days. But God always, always met me on those hard days. He gave scriptures that spoke straight to my heart. I would post on Facebook the daily news of what was going on, and I would end the post with a verse that God gave me that day from the Bible app “Verse of the Day.” Can you believe it? Just the verse I needed right when I needed it. That's how intimate He is! He knew that all I'd have time for those days was just to see that verse! Verses like these: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

God was telling me that He not only understands, but He will give hope and strength to my weary self. Wow! So many other verses like that would "pop up" at just the right times, speaking life into me. And I clung to them!

God also brought the right people at the right time to talk through the trauma with me. Our pastor’s wife in Cairns, who has become one of my closest and dearest friends, is a counselor. I could talk about the nitty-gritty of the trauma with her. She was not only certified to help, but she was always pointing me to Christ.

After the Fog Lifted

This accident also caused me to run hard into God. I felt like I had no other choice! Seriously. I remember after the fog lifted from being in shock, I initially sought comfort in people. People surrounded me, but very quickly I found that, even as wonderful as everyone was being to us, I felt all alone. My husband, as I had known him for 21 years, was in between surgeries, heavily drugged and no longer there for me. My comfort of having my husband and "rock" was taken away from me during that time. I remember crying my guts out, all the drool, snot and tears all over Michelle and my friend Candace. They would say, "At least he is alive, Adie." I wanted to scream: “So easy for you to say that! It's not your husband! Jon's leg is gone! What are we going to do now? He's handicapped."

Jon and Adie in the hospital

This was an almost 20-year dream of Jon's to be a missionary pilot in Papua New Guinea. And it seemed like it ended just like that. Now what?? I tend to be a worrier, and fret about things. Jon is my super optimistic guy who keeps me balanced.

But he was no longer able to point me to the truth, to be the positive one.  He was out of commission. I had to figure out this craziness myself.

Way Out of Our Comfort Zone

Sometimes God takes us way past our comfort zone to point us to Himself, doesn't He? Why? Is He unloving? Does He like to watch us squirm? No, He wants to refine us. He sees our weaknesses and wants to mold and shape us more like Himself.

In James 1:2 we read: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (NIV) But why would we consider it joy?

Romans 5:3-4 answers that. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV) It builds character, perseverance and hope. It causes us to cling to God tightly; it draws us to Him! We can have joy because we can trust God with the details of our lives.

As Jon started to recover, right away he was set on coming back to PNG. In fact when he heard we were taken off the field support center housing list, he wanted to make sure we got back on it so we wouldn't lose our spot! Talk about faith!

Adie, it is what it is. I can't change it. So we just have to keep moving forward.”

Ever since I've have known Jon, he has always been an "adapt and overcome" thinker. He was already scheming from his hospital bed about how to fly again and get certified again. His positivity and trust in the Lord not only spoke volumes to the many people who came to visit us in Cairns but to me. It spoke to my heart. This dear man of mine, who could easily have chosen bitterness and depression, chose to keep going—to recover and to overcome his disability and to fly again.

 I would ask him, "How come you're not mad? Why did this have to happen to you?"

Jon would say, "Adie, it is what it is. I can't change it. So we just have to keep moving forward."

I would tell him, "Well, I'll be mad for you!"

But Jon has said, "God knew this would happen. I have peace about it, and if someone can come to know Him because of it, it's worth it."

You might be thinking, "Boy, she married a saint!" Nope. That's not the case.  But God did honor Jon's willingness to trust Him by giving us not only an amazing team of doctors and nurses but also amazing family and friends to come around us.

Choosing to Believe God

Jon and I both chose to believe God is in this. Even if we could not—and still don't—see the big picture, we knew God did. Even though we knew nothing of what our future held, we knew God held it in His hands.

I think if we knew what our future on this earth looked like, we'd be afraid to take a step forward. I'm not trying to sound pessimistic, but if you are anything like me, if you know too much ahead of time of what to expect, you’d prepare for it or brace yourself for it or, if it sounds too scary, you might want to run far away from it!

Most of us hope to have a quiet, nice life that’s easy and fun with everything going our way. But God's Word says that in this life there will be trials—and that we’re to expect them. We have to believe God can see the big picture and is preparing us for something else—and that we can trust Him!

Beauty Out of Ashes

If we could only zoom way out and see God's perspective, we would be able to see that these steps—hard steps sometimes—that we have to take now, are getting us ready for something in the future that only God can see, but they are for our good and His glory. But we have to go through that trial in order to get where He is taking us.

It's choosing to believe in God and choosing to take Him at His Word that got me through this horrific accident. The Bible became dearer to me. I started reading every verse, aligning it with whatever it was that I was going through at the moment. Now when I read stories in the Bible of the “people of faith,” I could feel their pain and the hardship. Obviously they are "super spiritual” because they ended up in the Bible, right? Nope. And God did that on purpose. He chose everyday folks to show us these truths are meant for us all.

It all comes down to trusting God enough to take a step in faith. One step at a time. That's it. And if you can believe God always has our best in mind, it makes it easier to take another step after that. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed it well: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Things might look like a mess from our perspective, but God's view is that He is making us into something beautiful. He can make beauty out of ashes or a tapestry out of what looks like a mess. Nothing is wasted. Not even what appear to be interruptions. Elisabeth Elliot said, “When ours (plans) are interrupted, His are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable).”

Our sovereign God of love can be trusted, and we can have joy in that fact. We can believe God has big plans for us—for you and for me!

Let me close with a quote from a devotional I read: “Don’t wait until you believe it all. Don’t wait until you can see it all. Don’t wait until you understand it all. Trust God and step out in faith. He will meet you there.”

And He has proved that He will.