There are some scriptures that roll off our tongues so smoothly, so confidently but when the rubber meets the road, they are jarring, difficult and like the scroll that Ezekiel ate, sweet in the mouth but sour in the stomach.
One such scripture is Romans 5: 3 – 5 which confidently declares “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
I have just returned from a mission trip where disappointment and discouragement was the flavour of the day, where the enemy has done a work of destruction during our absence and many of the young people who appeared to be on fire and sold out for Jesus disappeared altogether. We found, instead of the vibrant church we left behind, a compromised church where Kingdom culture was not prevailing. It seemed that everything we taught fell on deaf ears and we even came to a point where each of us (missionaries) questioned whether we were actually called to the mission field, whether we were even having any influence or making any impact.
Personally, I was wondering what I was doing there in the first place. Was I really called? Did I have to be there? Am I even in God’s will for my life, and if I was, why was it so HARD? I am convinced that these questions are never far from any Christian’s mind. It has been insinuated to me that if it is (hard), then surely I cannot be in the Lord’s will and that just maybe I was not supposed to be serving this way. In fact, if God really sent me, then He would protect me, wouldn’t He? I would not have to cope with insect bites, tummy bugs, exhausting heat and humidity, disappointments…it would be easy – the Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, after all. Like my friend put it so eloquently when we talked about this around the breakfast table – “that would really mess with your head”. No kidding!
Yet, reading the Word, it’s hard to find examples of people who said “Yes” to the Lord and never suffered and never felt the sting of disappointment – often in themselves and their own humanity. Disappointment and suffering is the fibre that weaves together a tapestry of perseverance and what keeps us going, is Hope that whispers in our ear “try one more time”. So we get up and we dust ourselves off and we give it another shot. Our Christian walk would not be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy. What causes me great joy in the midst of all this, is when I can look back at that which could have killed my spirit, my hope and my call and I see how I have come through by the grace of God and realise that He who is in me is indeed greater than He who is in the world. That is when my faith comes alive…on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death.
I read Luke 5 this morning and I found another example of an event that must have caused great disappointment. Simon (Peter) and his friends were fishing all night long, with nothing to show for their trouble. Hope comes and says “try again”. In verse 5, ‘Simon (Peter) answered, Master, we toiled all night (exhaustingly) and caught nothing (in our nets). But on the ground of Your word, I will lower the nets (again). AMP
I know this feeling well, as I am sure you do too. We have worked so hard, we have served; forgiven; hoped for a promise to be kept; prayed for a lost one; held our breath, waiting for a relationship to be restored; cried over a loss; been spitefully used; mourned the loss of a friendship and more…and none of this made us feel particularly blessed and if you are anything like me, I don’t often see (from my own point of view and out of my nasty habit of navel-gazing) evidence of a godly character being formed, yet the Word assures me that it is.
But on the ground of His word, we keep going, for hope is alive in us:
6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish; and as their nets were [at the point of] breaking, 7 They signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and take hold with them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5: 6, 7 AMP
We keep going because the harvest is ready and the Lord of the harvest is calling the workers to get over their own disappointments, offenses and issues and get about the Father’s business, remembering always that in our weakness He is strong. So, am I going back? You bet