Battling Discouragement on the Mission Field
This week has been hard. Our work on the field is people-oriented: discipling believers, sharing with non-believers, and socializing to improve language skills and build a deeper bond with the culture. But what happens when the people we’re meant to pursue and minister to aren’t available to even meet up let alone be open to such a relationship?
This week was marked by plans falling through, friends being busy or out of town, and frustration. Discouragement followed me around like a cloud, and I kept knocking on closed doors to make something worthwhile happen instead of turning to God in prayer.
I didn’t spend the time I wanted to with lost friends this week, but I did enjoy rich fellowship with believers who prayed together and shared heart struggles. Reflecting back on this week now, I realize that perhaps God knew I needed to be ministered to instead of being the minister and purposely arranged it that way. What a kind and merciful Father we have.
This week, I was struck by Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (ESV).’” I don’t know about your Bible, but my Bible does not have a footnote that says this will take place if missionaries have consistently fruitful weeks and carry out God’s commands perfectly. Praise God that He will reign forever and ever and the kingdom of this world will become Christ’s kingdom! Praise God that He will accomplish His mission excellently and epically even with our imperfect, clumsy, frustrating attempts at inviting people to repent and believe before it’s too late.
One way to battle discouragement on the field is through gratitude. I went on a two-month trip to Southeast Asia several years ago, and the rule on the trip that stuck with me was for every complaint you share, you must share three things you’re thankful for. Complaint: I started up what I thought was a weekly Bible study with a lost friend only to realize that lost friend is leaving town for the next month and can’t meet up again for many weeks. Three things I’m thankful for: I’m thankful that friend wanted to read the Word together two weeks ago. I’m thankful she conversed with me about Scripture last night over text. And I’m thankful for my sisters in Christ who listened to my heart troubles, prayed for me, and sent me Scripture to think on in the coming days.
By dwelling on this week’s disappointments, I overlook the blessings and gifts God did give. Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (ESV).” Sometimes He doesn’t feel very present, but Scripture promises that He is very present.
A worship song used to play on the radio with a stanza that was problematic to me. The artist sang cheerfully, “Jesus, help us carry You / Alive in us, Your light shines through / With every act of love / We bring the kingdom come.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like bad news to me if Jesus needs us to carry Him. I don’t want to carry Him; I need Him to carry me! The gospel that compels us to move to foreign countries, learn hard languages, and tell people His story is that we are utterly insufficient in ourselves to make or even keep ourselves righteous. We are desperately dependent on our Messiah for life, for forgiveness, for wisdom, for salvation, and for fruit. In 2 Peter 1:3, it says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” The source of our strength is Him and His divine power, not ourselves, not our calling, not our talents, not our methods, not our obedience, not even our endurance.
So, I thank God for this week, even though it turned out quite differently than I had hoped. I thank God that my soul finds rest in Him. I thank God that He sees my disappointments, is pursuing lost people in this country, is strengthening His people, and has provided loving community in good times and bad.
Discover Your Calling
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Missionary J lives and serves in Southeast Asia with her family. Because of the nature of her work, her identity has been concealed.