(Today’s post is by Ruth Rising.)
IT SEEMS OBVIOUS but…
As a missionary, I know that I can run the risk of presenting myself to the people and churches who support me as someone who is mostly put together, who thinks rightly (most of the time) about things, who can put together fairly good visual presentations of the ministry I am in, who can write a prayer letter filled with what I want people to hear (leaving out the messy stuff), who can speak knowledgeably about the people I work with and the country I call my current home, etc. Social media also helps because I can present a very filtered picture of what I want people to see (currently, you might think my life is all about wildlife photography and a crazy labrador puppy, but obviously that is a very small slice of my life).
I believe that most people know better, but it seems that on occasion, people view me and other people in ministry as more than we are. This can lead to pride – or at least being tempted to pride if we choose to believe what people say. While parts of the above list might be true some of the time; once people get to know me, they also know that I get easily frustrated, that I am often wrong about what I think I’m seeing, that I can be unnecessarily hard on people, that I struggle to be content at times and that I have a fairly selfish view of the world and how it should treat me (i.e… I should NEVER have to deal with long lines at the bank, very slow computers like the one I’m working on right now, or deal with irritating taxi drivers, or worse, slow drivers in the fast lane…ei yi yi!).
There are times when my head screams out, “Why am I here (at Bethesda, in SA, in ministry, in the world)?” or “Why don’t I or other people change (students, people around me, etc)?” or “How many times must I say the same thing before ‘they’ get it?” (you can tell I wasn’t a mother to a toddler!)
The truth is, and many before me have said it better, ministry can be a challenge and sometimes pushes me to the edge of what I think I can endure. That being said, the reality for me, is that usually what pushes me to the edge is not so much what God allows and ordains for my life but my response(s) to what He puts into my life. When I teach and teach and teach and I see very little change or people still just don’t get it, it’s easy to get angry, discouraged and almost flippant about who you are teaching or what you are teaching. In my head, and occasionally out of my mouth, I have said something like, “Whatever! I’ve taught what they need to hear and if they don’t want to change or take it to heart, that’s their problem.” Or, “I’ve been saying this over and over and it’s your fault if you don’t want to change or learn from it so the consequences are on you.” I do realize how horrible those sound and while they sometimes make perfect (horrible) sense in my head, they are shameful responses to what God has given me to do.
Now… no one reading this and who knows me need be deeply concerned, freak out, or wonder if something big and horrible is happening in my life right now – it’s not. But I’ve been here before…several times – and I know I’m not alone. Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. God has used those moments to reveal what is happening in my heart (mind). He uses these situations to lovingly show me what I have wrongfully assumed is more important than faithfully teaching His truth and leaving the results or the “success” in God’s hands where it belongs. God could justifiably shut my voice down or remove me from ministry and I hope and pray He doesn’t do that; but I need to be a learner – probably a faster learner! I need to pay attention and learn what He is teaching me and not avoid what He wants me to learn. If I (or others) deal with my frustration with emotional eating (wish I could say that has never happened…hello Pringles and Pizza!) or becoming super busy to distract myself for the purpose of not dealing with my sin problems – God will wisely keep the pressure on because He cares more that I learn and that I come to know who He is rather than merely making my life simple and personally fulfilling.
You don’t need to be in full-time ministry to understand what I am saying. Most mom’s, dad’s and teachers who routinely teach (and teach and teach and teach…) and train people could write this with as much or more experience and authority than I ever could. But the answer is the same – God is wise and He knows exactly what you and I need to make us holy and more like Him. Our response to trials and difficulties will either increase pain and anger in rebellion or increase the thankfulness and joy in growing to be like Christ.
So…It seems obvious but….
- God brings trials out of His love for us – to make us more like Him
- God cares about my holiness – not my comfort and ease of life (even though He gives those!)
- Putting myself in the place of God and demanding my version of “success” in ministry will never give me what I think it will (sin is deceitful like that….)
- Trusting God with what I cannot control (like the outcome of ministry) will ALWAYS bring joy and comfort from God (talk about grace!)
Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”
Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
Ruth has been a missionary in South Africa for the past 20 years serving in both church planting and child care ministries. Ruth is currently serving at Bethesda Outreach Ministries in Hammanskraal, South Africa. For several years she was the principal of their school, Jabulane Christian Academy and is now working in public relations, communications, and finance. At her church, she teaches a ladies Bible study, plays on the music teams, and does some counseling when needed.
Bethesda Outreach is a ministry who’s mission is to “glorify God by assisting local churches in orphan care through a working model of…Christian families magnifying Christ” and the training and encouraging of churches, pastors and parents in orphan care. They employ and train national, mature Christian couples as houseparents for homes for orphans. The elementary age children attend Bethesda’s school, Jabulane Christian Academy. See more at http://bethesdaoutreach.org.