In 2008, my husband and I prepared to move our little family away from the only culture we’d ever known. We had one mission before us—to plant a church where the gospel would be preached, known and lived. We tucked away our years of ministry and life experience alongside the dishes and a baby crib in the moving van. We didn’t know how much we didn’t know yet.
Everyone cheered us on. They told us how proud they were of us following God’s call. Some also warned us of the obstacles and difficulties we’d face ahead. We tried to wrap our minds around the challenges we might face, but we were full of zeal and youthful energy. I imagined going toe-to-toe with the formidable and unseen difficulties. I imagined forcing them into submission.
Soon, we encountered the reality of church planting.
In our new culture no one cared we’d arrived to save the day. Neighbors shrugged. Fellow laborers said we were not needed. My husband and I experienced the wariness and opposition of those around us. We were a novelty—aliens out of thin air—having had no prior connections to our new city. Few were intrigued by the idea of a new church or of the idea of a Savior. Basically, it took precious little time for me to uncover the obstacles and challenges some had tried to prepare us for.
Honestly, my courage and boldness dissipated into uncertainty and doubt.
The challenge of loss
There are costs to following Jesus. We know Scripture tells us this is true. Many of us have left “house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or land” and have counted the cost leaving for the sake of Christ. However, we can’t know the daily consequences of leaving until we have actually left. The cost is experienced in the midst of the work. For most, experiencing the cost leads to grieving. We may grieve cultural familiarity or relationships changing. We may grieve a way of life we’d always envisioned for ourselves or for our children. We may grieve how different ministry looks in our new context compared to our old one. All of these are legitimate losses because in them we have lost a sense of home.
Grieving the cost is not wrong, but allowing it to brew bitterness inside us can send us veering off course and onto a path of destruction.
We must bring our griefs to God for He is the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). We must let our disorientation and unfulfilled longings point us to our true home. Abraham and Sarah walked by faith as they fulfilled God’s call. They “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The challenge of the unseen
When we’re commissioned or make our commitment to follow God, it’s exciting, celebrated and adrenaline-filled. Laboring over language, deciphering the bus system or figuring out how to purchase groceries are rarely celebrated and rarely exciting. It’s in those moments we become ripe for frustration and the feeling of being forgotten. Other celebratory moments in following Christ are tucked away, unseen by human eyes and certainly not what we’d write in a newsletter to our supporters.
However, it’s precisely when we’re tucked away that we find out who we’re actually serving and why.
The gospel is enough to hold us in place and enough to compel us outward to serve. There is a gift in being tucked away unseen and quite possibly forgotten by those back home; we find out that what we really need is something we already have—Him. We have a God who sees all and delights in our faithfulness. “What we are is known to God,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11. This truth can sustain us in the unseen work we do in foreign lands and unfamiliar places.
The challenge of persistent discouragement
We don’t always see direct results from our efforts. We wonder why God called us to a place only to leave us unfruitful. Discouragement seems ever-present. It certainly has been a plague for me even as we’ve seen fruit from the seeds we’ve sown in church planting. I’m prone to look at what’s broken rather than what God has redeemed—including my own heart. I’m also prone to look to myself as the antidote to my own discouragement or to look to myself as the one capable enough to make spiritual fruit grow.
When we look at ourselves in the face of discouragement, we only see powerlessness and weakness. The only response is to shrink back in inadequacy. Instead, we must look to Christ and His Spirit as our ever-present help. He is enough! Our spiritual poverty teaches us to depend upon the true Grower of fruit and to wait on Him to do the growing in His time. When we look at Him instead of counting our disappointments and worries, we can celebrate the marks of His faithfulness we’ve seen along the way—however small—and see by faith how He will be faithful in the future.
Church planting wives, whatever challenges you all face today, let your griefs and your disenchantments with this world turn your face to the One who sees, the One who promises you will reap from what you’ve sown (Galatians 6:9), the One who is preparing for you a true home.
Ladies, turn your face to the One who is worthy of all your labor costs you. He is pleased by your faith. Don’t give up!
This post was originally published at Grace Covers Me.
Published September 28, 2017