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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson


Smile Nils

It’s cliché I know. A picture is worth a thousand words. But just look at those smiles. Priceless.

Yesterday Nils came home from his mission to Mission. Mission, Texas, and McAllen next door. And even after ten days of sleep deprivation and 30 hours one way on a bus, he’s all smiles.

I’ve been there, so I know. It’s a special trip. Every summer our high school kids head south to make a difference, and every year the real difference is in them. Their lives changed by the whole experience. The experience of daily prayer at 5 AM. The experience of loving so many new people. The experience of being stretched in so many new ways. And in all these things, the experience of God showing up, and Jesus taking flesh, and the Spirit being real. So real. Like you’ve never known before.

So I see that smile, and I hear his stories, and I read the blog and I know. This was just what Nils needed, and just in time. God is good. So good.

It’s just what we needed, too. This smile. This breath of life.

And it’s no surprise, on the heals of this victory, there’s battle brewing. Yesterday I sat by Nils at church, just minutes after the return of the bus. I opened my Bible to the text for the day. 1 Corinthians 10:13. And Nils took out his phone, flipping it over for me to see. The piece of paper attached to the back. A list of verses from his Bible study, and 1 Corinthians 10:13. He opened the Bible app on his phone, and I could hear his whispered surprise. The verse of the day. Today. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

We’d better pay attention. I whispered back.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I won’t begin to guess at everything this means. But I will say this. I’m fully aware of the battle. I’m willing to say there’s an enemy. Waiting to steal our joy.

Kyle and I sense it right away. Our own battles, heating up. Yeserday and all night, and still this morning. Battles real and some perceived. Anxiety gripping us tight. Why? Why does it have to be so hard?

It’s like we’re living two lives. One life with boys who smile and thrive. Who go on missions and plan a wedding. Who laugh and love and sing. Another life that demands all our patience. A work in progress. Our good days are hard, and our hard days are good. And we can’t quite live in the joy of the one, and we can’t quite despair of the pain of the other. And we do need prayer.

I memorize scripture. It’s salve to my soul. These past weeks I’ve been in Romans, chapter 8. Amazing. So much relevance for this season. Listen.

…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 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.

Wait, what’s that about suffering? Adoption, yes, and glory. But indeed (not maybe) we share suffering?


I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Okay, and there’s more.

…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Patiently? I think not. And I’ve told God as much.

And did you wonder, like me, about the adoption? The Spirit testifying. Yes, it’s true! And then that same Spirit groaning. Waiting. And what’s up with that?

Therein, I’d guess, lies the battle. This now and not yet. We are, but we’re not. They are, but they’re not. And we, like them, groan while we wait.

A couple of weeks ago our friend and English tutor met with Kyle and me. She showed us a chart on grief and loss. A typical progression of going down and back up. And once again, God gets my attention through repetition, when a few days later it’s there again in my study. Another J-curve. Down and back up. And the author says God’s stories are always gospel stories. Death and resurrection. And he says, we must accept the death, and we can’t force the resurrection, but we can hope.

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Patiently, right. But with help.

Because, here’s what I memorize today.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And one thing I do know. He is good. And he does send us smiles.

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