A well-intentioned friend was concerned that I shared too much in my monthly emails and that it might be better to be less honest about my struggles. Initially, I agreed, but upon further reflection, I thought that would be the wrong way to go.
The whole purpose of a newsletter, after all, is to have family and friends pray for my struggles. What may seem like over-sharing to some is genuine, heart-felt need for me. The setbacks and disappointments are a part of ministry life and it would do no good to put on a happy face and say everything is fine when it isn’t. I value my readers’ prayers, concern, love and interest for my family’s well-being.
Before we moved to Texas to start a new church, the son of my pastor in California sent me off with these prophetic words when I mentioned to him that, perhaps, this endeavor might go without many problems. “It’s my general understanding that these things never go easy,” he replied.
And, he was right!
Missionaries, church planters, evangelists, pastors—anyone who is dedicated to serving the Lord—will experience great difficulties.
When the apostles Paul and Barnabas healed a man on a missionary journey, the people thought they were gods and worshiped them. Then they changed their minds and stoned Paul leaving him for dead. Did he quit? Nope. He went right back into the city to preach the Gospel saying, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14)
I read the testimony of a pastor who said that he and his wife cried every night for the first five years in their new church. Another man told me that he had to sell his house and move into an apartment because the church couldn’t support him financially.
Sometimes the hardships come from extended illnesses: Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), considered the greatest preacher who ever lived, suffered from extreme depression and gout, describing it this way: “Imagine placing your foot in a vice and tightening the vice as far as it will go; then tighten it four more turns.” His wife Susannah became an invalid at age 33 and could seldom attend her husband’s services.
Troubles can also come from within the family home: William Carey’s wife Dolly refused to go with him to India but was pressured to go. Their 5-year-old died and the other children continually contracted tropical diseases while there. His wife started to go insane and constantly followed him down the street berating him, accusing him of having affairs with women, even threatening him with a knife. Finally, he had to keep her in a locked room. Carey is considered “The Father of Modern Missions.”
Molly, the wife of Methodist founder John Wesley, was so unhappy that she decided to make the famous evangelist’s life miserable as well. Because he was away often preaching to crowds of thousands in the open fields, she grew resentful of his long absences. She destroyed some of his writings, criticized him publicly and repeatedly accused him of adultery. On several occasions she left home, only returning after he begged her repeatedly. Although he had been unspeakably angry with her, he kept aiming at reconciliation.
But the home life was unhappy.
John Hampson of Manchester ‘once entered a room unannounced to find Molly dragging her husband across the floor by his hair.’ Finally, she left for good. “I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her,” Wesley noted in his journal.
How would we know about all these great men’s struggles if they didn’t share them?
Spurgeon said, “There is no University for a Christian like that of sorrow and trial.”
Ministry is hard, Satan is real, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I hope to stay faithful despite the many challenges.
You, dear Christian, stay the course as well “for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
“Never give in. Never give in,” said Winston Churchill. “Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. ”You won’t. I won’t. We can’t.
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