Worrying about Ministry: Hannah's Story

My name is Hannah Varberg, and I’m the communications coordinator at North Heights.

I’ve been a self-proclaimed Christian my entire life, but my faith didn’t truly become alive until I attended University of Northwestern – St. Paul. There, God lit a fire in my heart for Him, and my life goals, purposes, and mindset were completely altered. I wanted to serve Him, tell others about Him, and be active in my faith. At first, I pursued these goals with the motivator of love. I loved God completely, and this fired my ministry and service to Him.

However, as I’m someone who has struggled with anxiety almost my whole life, it wasn’t long until the devil saw this pure motive of love and tried to tarnish it with anxiety. My mind would convince me I wasn’t doing enough to serve God, and this would result in guilt, anxiety, and restlessness. 

Soon, without me even comprehending it, anxiety was the motive behind me doing ministry. I would participate in ministry opportunities because if I didn’t, I would be overwhelmed in guilt and negative self-talk. In this season in my life with anxiety as a motivator, I did a lot of cool things for God. I gave a witch a Bible. I invited non-believing friends to church. I led a small group of international students. What I was doing was exciting and great, but why I was doing it was missing the mark.

Anxiety continued to rule my ministry when my husband and I moved to Granada, Spain to volunteer with a church and cultural center. We were in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic, and it was difficult for all the reasons that I didn’t expect. The language barrier wasn’t as much of a problem as being anxious about every grammatical mistake was. The pandemic wasn’t the main problem; being inundated with guilt about sitting on my couch during the pandemic was the greater dilemma. 

I found that it was incredibly difficult to relax when we were living in Spain. We had moved across the world following God’s call to make a difference, so whenever we had down time to rest, I just couldn’t do it. My guilt nagged at me to do something. My anxiety constantly questioned “am I making enough Spanish friends here? Am I saying enough? Am I doing enough?”

We spent 9 months in Spain, and of course, they were a beautiful, impactful 9 months. We made many Spanish friends and learned so much, and it was truly a wonderful experience that I would trade for nothing. But unfortunately, anxiety was present behind my church involvement, spiritual conversations, and volunteering the entire time.

We returned home in July of 2021. After a long day of traveling, Micah and I were finally in the car with his parents, and they were taking us to temporarily stay with them. On that ride home, I looked around at my home of Minnesota for the first time in 9 months. I took in the familiar streets, stores, and restaurants, and instead of feeling peaceful about finally being home, anxiety gripped me in a new way. My first thoughts in America were that of worry; we had no jobs, no cars, no place to live. What we were going to do? What was next?

Those thoughts plagued me for the first few weeks back in America. One day I was taking a walk in the warm summer green and worrying about ministry. I was chatting to God in my head and saying, “okay, now what, Lord? Now what? What ministry can I do? Should I jump back into international ministry? Should I start another small group? What’s next?” 

The response stilled my soul. I felt God say, “your ministry right now is to trust me.”

This response blew my mind. I felt like God was asking me to do nothing but spend time with Him and trust Him. All I could do in this moment was say, “All right, God. I’m in.” After this moment with God on the sidewalk of Como Avenue, my guilt and anxiety about doing ceased while I meditated on trusting.

Trusting Him threw me down an unconventional, confusing path at first, but I remained confident in my trustworthy Savior. Although human nature betrayed me a few times and pushed me into worry, I quickly corrected my mindset and returned to trust. I had never been so relaxed with instability than I was in this past season. Without a job, without a car, without a home, and without ministry, I was content. Then 4 months after returning from Spain, fully trusting God led me to North Heights.

Now I’m getting settled into a season of ministry again, working at a church, volunteering with international students, and leading a small group. However, my heart still has not forgotten the lesson He taught me during one sunny walk last summer. Sometimes, God does want us intimately involved in the doing. Other times, the next step of faith could be sitting with the presence of Jesus, without guilt and anxiety, and simply trusting. 

By Faith - Barb's Story

More from Barb below:

As I reflect on my years of life, I see it as a faith journey.

By faith, I received the Word of the Lord that my parents taught me.

By faith, one night as a teenager kneeling by my bed, I submitted my life to Jesus Christ and His lordship.

By faith, I was often driven to the woods on our farm to seek the meaning of my life through tears, prayers, and God’s Word.

By faith, through the help and influence of Aunt Margaret, I went to college to become an elementary teacher.

By faith, I stepped out of the Mennonite community to attend Millersville State College (PA).

By faith, at the suggestion of my brother, I went to an unknown place in South Carolina to attend Columbia Bible College. The motto of the college fit well with my own life desire: “To know Him and to make Him known.”

By faith, in my second year at Bible College, I refused financial help from my father so that I could trust God for my needs. God provided for these through a job and through unexpected gifts.

By faith, while at Columbia, I was able to say, after soul struggles, “I’m willing to serve you single, Lord.”

By faith, single and insecure, I applied to the Latin American Mission and trusted God to provide my financial support.

By faith, on a remote jungle airstrip on the border of Venezuela and Brazil, I accepted Jim’s proposal for marriage, trusting that God would unite us to serve God and others.

By faith, Jim and I adopted three children from Latin America. I had confidence in what God was going to do in each of their lives and in my life as a parent.

By faith, God carried us through each experience of our three years in Colombia: my ruptured disk, an airplane accident (fatalities: two pigs), Jim’s typhoid fever (even after receiving preventative shots), a failed refrigerator, a failed communal living attempt, and a car accident with the two kids and me. Though we were robbed various times, though there were accidents and failures, though we lost our first rented house along with a year’s rent, I will rejoice in the Lord and I will be joyful in God my Savior. Because of God’s grace, we are not bitter, but value that time in Colombia as a time of growth.

By faith, we left Mission Aviation Fellowship, along with its financial support, when Jim went to graduate school.

By faith, Jim and I choose that I should be an at-home mom, even though there was little income. I believed God would help us live with less and would provide for us, and He did.

By faith, I spent many nights weeping and praying for my children through their difficult years.

By faith, we live each day allowing Him to lead us in our contacts, bringing blessing and truth to them, be they neighbors, counselees in the Counseling Clinic, older homebound people, our prayer group, or parents of adoptees.

We serve a great God. We call on our God who is worthy to be praised. He is our strength, our rock, our fortress, our savior, our shield, our stronghold for now and forever.

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