If you are a missionary overseas, what you do (if you’re doing it right) is not easy. It’s hard work and despite how others picture it, it’s not always rewarding.
We’ve all heard stories of missionaries who have worked for years and have done little more than survive. This can be discouraging and for me personally it has come incredibly close to ending my missions “career” multiple times. I used to think that if I wasn’t producing fruit like I saw others producing, this must not be where God wants me. In my defense, the Bible does kind of say that.
If you’ve felt this kind of deep seated disappointment and have become cynical towards the God who sent you into what seems like a losing battle, this post is for you.
Think through the prophets of the Old Testament. What kind of fruit did they produce? Day after day they were preaching the destruction of the kingdoms in which they lived. Who today would consider these prophets successful? They were outcasted, they had no ‘relevance’ and they surely struggled with their purpose and mission in this world. They were turned away, beaten, made fun of, left to die, and ignored all in a days work. Think of Job. This guy did everything right and God basically handed him over to be thundered by Satan… and for what? To prove a point? How could Job not be a little frustrated? God’s answer is equally as frustrating as the whole ordeal but I guess it’s one of those things we simply can’t understand.
And we can never forget about John the baptist. He lived out in the middle of nowhere, ate weird food, and made his own clothes. His life wasn’t easy or envied. He spent the end of his difficult career in prison. After a few years in prison, he questioned whether or not Jesus was even the God he had told all those people he was. He was gruesomely murdered because some bratty girl performed what must have been a pretty entertaining dance for the right person at the right time.
If you’re frustrated by your lack of results, lack of faith, or lack of leadership potential hear this; you are in good company. Some of the biggest heroes throughout the Bible questioned their purpose, their effectiveness, and their very allegiance. Think of Moses, Peter, and even Jesus who wondered why God had forsaken him at the end of his life. The message of the modern day church is loud and clear: good leaders never falter and good Christians never question their faith. The Bible tells a different story. What would a church today do if King David applied for a job as an associate pastor? Infidelity, murder, public indecency… he wouldn’t even get an interview.
This is where I write an inspirational plea to make you excited about the journey you embarked on with optimism and bright eyes so many years (or months) ago. Unfortunately, I have nothing for you in this regard. All I can say is that you are in good company and I hope you can take comfort in that.
How do you cope with discouragement and obstacles on the mission field?
– Dustin Patrick | 1MISSION in Mexico, Nicaragua, & El Salvador
Disclaimer: The flip side to this post is that there is a time for bearing fruit. Please don’t use the fact that you face discouragement and obstacles on the mission field as an indicator of success (i.e. “Satan must really not want us here, we’ve yet to accomplish anything!”). It could very well mean this is not where God wants you. Please seek council if you are having a hard time telling the difference. If this is something you are struggling with and there is no one you can talk to openly and honestly to, please reach out to me personally using the links above. I’m happy to be a sounding board to those in this very tough, and all to common, situation.