Trusting God in a world of suffering and uncertainty

From Wycliffe Australia’s Wycliffe Today ‘God of the unexpected’

By Susanna Baldwin

I’ve always had a love for words, communication and language. For a long time, I didn’t really have a vision for using those gifts in a ministry context. But around 10 years ago, I started feeling the pull to leave my secular career and invest in some kind of vocational Christian work. As I sorted through what that might look like, I quickly came to see Bible translation as a good fit for the interests and skills God had given me.

I’m currently in Darwin and working on the Plain English Version (PEV) translation project, in partnership with the Australian Society for Indigenous Languages. My original plan was to serve with SIL in Ethiopia, but I only made it to Ethiopia for ten days last year before COVID-19 hit and Wycliffe began recalling its overseas staff. Being so new on the field, and with the SIL offices and language school closing down, it was an easy (if disappointing) decision to leave Ethiopia and wait out the pandemic in a more familiar environment.

I headed to the UK, where I kept my mum company through several lockdowns and continued working on a book-writing project (which is still ongoing). The book is based on some research I did at Bible college on Job’s three friends – the famous ‘miserable comforters’. In it, I ask the question: what does it mean to be a ‘good’ comforter? My aim is to draw on the lessons of Job and his friends to help equip the everyday Christian to speak into other people’s suffering with both compassion and biblical clarity.

Towards the end of 2020, with Ethiopia still looking uncertain, I started to talk with Wycliffe about the possibility of an interim assignment back in Australia. They suggested the PEV as a project that I could slot into without the need for prior language study or lengthy cultural orientation. I was very thankful for the opportunity, and have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team here.

When we watch the devastation wreaked by COVID-19 across the world, we can wonder what God is thinking and doing in the midst of so much suffering. The pandemic certainly pushed me to think more concretely about what it means for God to be ‘in control’ of a world in pain.

I love how the Bible so often reminds us of the simple truth that God is God and we are not. Job is a great book for this! In chapter 26 verse 14, Job recounts God’s absolute command over the most vast, ethereal aspects of creation. At the end of it all, he says: ‘And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!’ How can we not trust and rest in a God like that?

Please pray:

  • for God’s guidance to produce a translation that is faithful to his truth, while being clear and understandable to readers
  • I would be motivated and energised by the gospel, over and above my love of analysing Bible texts and playing with words
  • for discernment about my future – whether to eventually serve in Ethiopia or continue longer-term work among Australia’s Indigenous language speakers.

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