For this post in my series on Faith and Risk, I’ve interviewed Amanda Knussman, a recent graduate of Bradley University. Soon she will leave for a year’s stint in Germany, ministering to college students in Berlin with Campus Crusade for Christ. This adventure is chock-full of risk and discomfort—a great first interview feature for the series!
Catch up on previous Faith and Risk posts:
es: Would you consider yourself a risk taker in life?
ak: Typically, no, I would not say I am a risk taker. I am usually pretty wimpy about most things, such as being too scared to go bungee jumping or cliff diving (although I’ve never had real opportunity to do things like that). I certainly don’t seek out risk, and I think I’ve been raised that way. My family plays things on the safe side, and that has rubbed off on me.
es: How has your perception of risk and faith changed over the years?
ak: While I don’t consider myself a thrill or risk-seeker, I started recognizing in high school, and even more so in college, that life is indeed short (even though that is a terrible cliché) and if I always hold back because I’m afraid of what people will think, I will end up with a ton of regrets about how I’ve lived.
The struggle is to not use this “not holding back” attitude as an excuse to do whatever I want, but to do “dangerous” things for the Lord. I don’t mean being foolish, but doing God’s will even when it isn’t easy. This could mean standing up for what is right when it is uncomfortable and not in my own personal interest, confessing sin I’ve kept a secret with people I can trust, or sharing what I know is true about God with a friend who doesn’t know Him. I certainly don’t do this well yet . . . but the Lord is working on my tendency to play it safe. And I like to play it safe because I often don’t trust that God has my best interest at heart.
es: What prompted you to stretch yourself by accepting this yearlong position in Germany?
ak: When I entered college, I [subconsciously] clung to the belief that my life was about me. I loved God and wanted to please Him, as long as the things He wanted fit into my plan for my life. I’ve since learned (and am still continuing to learn) that my true purpose is to bring God glory, and a life lived for His glory actually brings me more pleasure in the end.
In my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ at Bradley, I was presented over and over again with this idea of giving an extended period of time to the Lord by working full time to share with people about our greatest need—a right relationship with God. And until this fall, I always thought those opportunities were for somebody else.
In my search for the answer to the question: “What are you doing with your life after you graduate?” God used several things to pull me away from my concentration on playing it safe. I was studying Philippians this past fall, and the passage from chapter 3 verses 7-8 about “counting all things as a loss compared to knowing Christ” really struck me. While I had heard these verses before, they took on a completely new meaning now. All things? Even the plans I had of “settling down” after college? Every reason I could come up with to NOT go to Germany focused on a fear or a selfish desire—all rooted in a lack of trust in the Lord. If I took this passage to heart, these things are true:
- my own comfort = loss
- other people’s opinions or disapproval of my decision to go to Germany = not as important as obeying Christ
- the risk of being rejected and ridiculed by people who disagree with God’s truth = doesn’t matter as long I’m honoring Christ
Ultimately, it was these truths from God’s Word that prompted me to say: This is a stretch for me. I never thought I would be fit for this job, and there will definitely be some hard parts about it. But I will make myself available, and God can use me for His purposes even if it doesn’t fit what I had planned.
es: What fears are you battling in your attempt to live all-out for Jesus in this German adventure?
ak: My fears range from deeply rooted insecurities about my preparedness to superficial silly “day-mares” about not being let into the country because I can’t understand the customs workers at the airport. 🙂 (fyi-I know very little German!)
I would say my biggest battle is against fears about not being good enough, brave enough, or bold enough to do what God has called me to do. Ultimately, I am afraid of failing—failing my teammates, my supporters, and my Savior. Luckily, my God is a God of grace and not of performance. He doesn’t need me to accomplish His work in Berlin, but He chooses to use me. And my year there is not so I can attempt to pay Him back for what He has done for me, for I never could, but to make me more deeply aware of how much I really need Him. Now only if I could act on and practice daily these things I know to be true!
es: How are you learning to turn to God for comfort and safety even as you take difficult steps in your faith walk?
ak: I am learning what an important role God’s Word plays in my ability to turn to God as my source of security. I want to be separated from the grasp that worldly things can have, to be saturated in God’s Word and satisfied completely in Him. If I neglect time with the Lord and time soaking up His Word, I am more prone to the fears that keep me from taking difficult steps of faith. I don’t want to become legalistic about it, but I recognize the importance of having discipline in this area.
es: What practical way do you feed your faith in the face of risk?
ak: I’m a list person—I make lists about nearly everything. One thing that has been really neat for me is to take a Psalm and just list everything that is true about God from the passage. Then if I have a fear about something—say I’m really worrying about being rejected by students I meet while I’m Germany—I can just look at a list I’ve made from God’s Word: “The Lord is a place of refuge” (Ps. 31:1). [From that I know] God always accepts me and is a place refuge for me when I feel rejected by others. [If I] meditate on that for a bit, my fear of rejection dissolves.