I live in South Africa. No, not in Cape Town or one of the other places that gives this country a reputation for immense beauty. I live in a small, rural town where most buildings are no older than 30 years. We traded our home amidst the rolling hills of Devon for scorched yellow plains.

Fast, reliable internet is virtually non-existent. Amazon doesn’t deliver.

My husband and I moved here almost a year ago for his work. Shortly after we arrived I read Psalm 37:3: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” I noted it down and started praying it regularly. I envisioned making new friends, getting involved in the local church and outreach to the needy, and generally building up an exciting new life.

Then came a South African heat wave. I found it hard to express to my friends back home how oppressive and overwhelming this was. Due to the poverty in our region, air conditioning is not widely available. When the weather finally started cooling down, the onset of my pregnancy came. Now I’m usually too nauseous or exhausted to go out.

Because of my husband’s career, we’re stuck here for the time being. But if I wasn’t married, I would have figured out a way to escape by now. I’ve never been afraid to make drastic changes to improve my life.

In my single days, I hit a moment when my career had stalled and I was sitting on my parents’ sofa feeling depressed. I got an opportunity to go abroad – to a country I’d never visited before and didn’t speak the language – and seized it. This precipitated a series of events that resulted in my landing a job with a prestigious company and relaunching my career. I’ve been thinking about that event a lot recently. I’m struck by how proud I was of my fearlessness in rescuing myself from hardship. God showed me how my past skill at getting unstuck was an idol.

My prayer to “dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” is being answered, but in a different way than I’d expected. My energy level is limited, so befriending faithfulness is limited to things like being a positive, supportive presence for my husband.

A few months ago, he was worn down my incessant complaining and said: “Can you try to be a little bit happier?” I took that to heart and am trying to do better – but I still have a long way to go. We’re being deliberate about grasping glimpses beauty where they can be found. The campus of the local university has a nice grass field surrounded by older academic buildings. We’ve started going on picnics there Sunday afternoons after church. We never did that before, despite the beautiful parks near our previous home.

Befriending faithfulness means being grateful for what I do have, rather than focusing on what I don’t. I miss the familiarity of the NHS. But we’ve found an excellent gynecologist and a high-quality private hospital for the impending birth. These are great blessings. Slowly and sometimes grudgingly, I’m learning to be content. Our God takes what we think we need, turns it around, and gives us something better. That is the greatest blessing of all.

Written by Emma Elliott Freire

Emma Elliott Freire is a freelance writer living in South Africa. She moved there from Devon with her husband Lucas. She has previously worked for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a multinational bank and the European Parliament.

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