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Risk: choosing second best

You can tie yourself up in knots when it comes to risk. On one hand, we want to use the resources God has given us. On the other hand, such ‘wisdom’ is often a cover for wanting to be in control. Back on the first hand again, we know that faith is not the same as fatalism. So how do we balance wisdom and faith?

One solution we’ve been thinking about is choosing the second best option. Let me explain.

For most missionaries, there are 3 risk pressure points: medical care, education and security. The last one is less of an issue in Tanzania but the first two are big deals. They’re the two things our supporters express most anxiety about and perhaps rightly so. There’s no doubt that the healthcare available to us in Tanzania won’t be anywhere near the standard we’d receive in Australia. While living overseas provides its own wonderful educative opportunities, it’s not an Australian education and there are limitations.

We have the resources to access world class medical care and education. There are good reasons for and against using them. And yet, the importance that we place on these two issues probably betrays how inflated they are in our perspective. That’s to be expected: for westerners, healthcare and education are the bare basics of life. They are indeed good things. But they are not ultimate. We probably hold onto them a little too dearly. These are the things we’re least likely to entrust to God. 

So it’s precisely at these points that we need to be ready to give something up, not because we’re sadists or because we think ‘faith’ means going without, but because we know that it’s at these points that we’ll want to hold on more tightly than we ought. It’s on these issues that we’re most likely to resist trusting God.

For that reason, as we make our plans, we probably won’t be going for the ‘best’ options. Note that we’ll still be making plans! This is not a decision to throw caution to the wind. But we won’t be looking for world-class medical care or the ‘best’ education. Instead, we’ll be going for the ‘second best option‘.

Wrapping up the risk series

I started this series by asking how I could resist acting out of fear. Our hope is that taking only the second best option will help us to remember that it is God, not us, who is in control and that we can trust his care.

I also asked what steps of faith we could take. We also hope that going for the second best option (as opposed to, say, the 10th) will mean that we steward the resources and care God has given us faithfully.

What might that look like in practice? It might mean that rather than going for the ‘best in the world’ option, we go for the ‘best in/near Dodoma’ option. There are no right or perfect answers. We’re not ruling out medical evacuation or the possibility that we’ll need to plan to come back to Australia for childbirth, for example. But because we know our tendency as westerners is to hold onto control, the question we’ll be asking is less about what is the highest standard and more about what helps us to lean towards trust.

I still don’t feel very brave. And, for all my confidence that God’s plans are good, my big fear is that God’s plan for us won’t align with our plans for us! Perhaps the scariest words in the Bible are ‘Thy will be done’. I’m not sure I ever pray them wholeheartedly but maybe I should pray that I would be able to!

Categories: Tanzania Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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