Every year our family chooses a new “yearly verse” from the Bible. We memorize it and quote it to each other, trusting that God will use that verse as a theme for the year. As we thoughtfully reviewed 2020, a lot of hard things rose to the surface of our memories. We had lost our friend and teammate, Joyce Lin, to a fatal aircraft accident in Papua, where we live and serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship. In addition to that, COVID-19, such a tiny little virus, had wreaked such havoc on the whole world. Living overseas, it translated into extended periods of lockdown with no visitors allowed to fly in, nor our being able to fly out, and multiple months with curfews ranging from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.
Yes, 2020 had been a hard year.
This particular New Year’s Day of 2021, our family was together in an Airbnb in South Carolina. As we were trying to decide about our yearly verse, my eyes just happened to glance down at my new Bible study book. On the cover, in bold lettering, stood these words: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Genesis 18:14a. It caught my eye, and I smiled. Then my eyes wandered over to the television on the wall, which was exploding with news of violence in our nation’s Capitol, similar to the violence and rioting that had been erupting for months before. My heart sank. It was a scary time to be in the States, but then there was something very comforting about that verse. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
Our family decided that was the verse we would claim for 2021. Understanding the context of this verse added to its meaning. In Genesis, God had called a man named Abraham to leave his comfortable city life behind and journey to a new land God promised to show him. Abraham obeyed God. He and his wife Sarah had no children. One day the LORD spoke to Abraham and promised him a son – even though he and Sarah were both well along in years. But Abraham, “believed the LORD, and [God] credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, NIV).
As the years continued to tick by and no heir had appeared on the scene, Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. She gave her Egyptian maidservant Hagar to Abraham as a wife so she could build a family through her. That concept seems weird to us, right? Unfortunately back then it was an acceptable thing to do. Hagar does conceive and give birth to a son, but things became a bit rocky in the family when Sarah is again hit hard with the scorn of her own barrenness.
More time passed—until it was seemingly impossible for an elderly Abraham to father a child or Sarah to conceive one. Yet God reminded them of His promise. The child He promised would come from Abraham and Sarah’s union, not Hagar’s. Even as he and Sarah appeared to snicker in disbelief that God was actually able to fulfill this promise, the LORD said to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
Sure enough, according to God’s word, by that same time the following year, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. She was 90 years old and Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac, the child of promise, was born. He became Abraham’s heir, continuing the righteous line from which the Hebrew nation would be descended, and ultimately Christ himself.
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” I loved the reminder that God is all-powerful. He can do even the impossible from man’s perspective. Yes, this verse would be a great encouragement to our family this next year.
We were staying in South Carolina because God had worked out all the details for our family to come to the States and visit C.J., our son who is attending Liberty University in Virginia. We had planned for C.J. to come visit us in Indonesia last May, but due to COVID-19 that trip was canceled. Then we had hoped and prayed that God would make a way for C.J. to come visit us for Christmas, but as the time grew nearer, we realized that it would also not be possible because of the restrictions. The only way we would get to see C.J. would be if the three of us traveled to him in the States.
With changing restrictions and so much unknown, however, we weren’t even sure that could happen. And yet, through much prayer, we ended up in South Carolina, having spent Christmas and New Year’s with our son, and also celebrating his 20th birthday together! We had chosen a neutral place that wasn’t so far from him and ended up on Hilton Head Island. It was quite a bit colder than our tropical bodies were acclimated to, but we still enjoyed walks together on the long stretches of beach and thoughtful conversations catching up on the events that had marked our lives the past year. C.J. and his 14-year old brother Ryan picked up right where they had left off. We all relished our time together, and it was an amazing gift to our family.
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
But now it was time to say goodbye to C.J. and return to Indonesia. Our family imagined that we would have ample opportunity to quote our yearly verse to each other during the long and somewhat precarious process of returning to Indonesia while battling ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions. Little did we know how right we were.
To be continued…