“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?” (Isaiah 43:19).
Over the summer, God gave me an impromptu opportunity to serve as a leader on a mission trip to Mexico. It was a youth group mission trip, so while we spent a lot of time mixing concrete and feeding snow cones to street kids, we also used the week as a sort of church retreat for the high schoolers.
The main theme emphasized in all the Bible studies was the idea of “breakthroughs.” A breakthrough is the result of an effort toward change, like what happens when you dive headfirst through the wall. The youth pastors really wanted the teens to utilize the week in Mexico as a time to address hidden sins, or to step out of their comfort zone, or to take the new environment as an opportunity to see God from a different angle. I’m glad God placed me in a position to join them, because this breakthrough idea really started to get to me, too.
I think we hear about a lot of breakthroughs in the Christian church. We hear about people suddenly freed from addiction the day they’re saved, or about financial worries getting solved with a single prayer. We hear the “I once was lost, now I’m found” kinds of stories. We see people barreling through walls left and right. To be honest, when I think of that kind of breakthrough, it leaves me looking at my own wall and thinking, “What’s the matter with my story?”
There’s a second kind of breakthrough, and it’s the kind far less told. The lead youth pastor let me in on the secret of it when he explained how the Mexico mission trips started. Twenty years ago, his mission trip to Mexico was lonely, and all he had with him was some sports equipment to entertain the street kids. Today, it’s a flourishing ministry of fifty-or-so high schoolers who are building churches and running evangelical crusades. That didn’t happen overnight.
This kind of breakthrough isn’t the kind done by barreling through the wall, but rather by picking apart the wall with your fingernails, one splinter at a time. It takes months, years, sometimes decades. It’s the kind brought about by cultivating soil, breaking up fallow ground, pouring into a situation and waiting for a result—watering and waiting, watering and waiting—and then watching the birds of doubt and fear and failure fly down and eat half the sprouts. It’s the kind of breakthrough that is gradual, a step by step sanctification, a day to day choice. This is the breakthrough, though, that I believe bears much fruit.
That’s the breakthrough I think I’ve had this past week: that I can live trusting that God is, in fact, giving me a breakthrough, even though I don’t see it in the fanfare of a single moment. More than that, if a breakthrough really is happening, I ought to have confidence in the future, and stop living as if it will never come to pass.