23 Jun 2021
Of course, you’re not naive.
You know to expect that it will be challenging to serve overseas. But what will that actually look like?
Yesterday I spent the day hiding in my house, because I couldn’t handle all the demands waiting to pounce once I entered someone’s house on a visit. The small wins often overshadowed by frustrating leaps backward; new crisis’, lack of change in people’s lives and hearts, once open ears turned deaf, people wanting more ‘stuff’ from you, people acknowledging your worldview seems to work better but refusing to listen to why. I pour myself out to care for a Sudanese family whose child has a blood disease. Each visit the stressed mum gives me unsolicited feedback, ‘you [still] can’t speak any Arabic’, and it always stings.
Usually, it is zealous people who are drawn to work overseas. We are compelled by the gospel. We are compelled to divert away from a career path and awkwardly ask people to support us. We land somewhere strange that thrills our senses, the unfamiliarity reminds us why we are here. But after a few months we are noticing what grates.
We expect that the God who told us to ‘go into all the world’, will use us. We try hard. The task of learning language grinds down our enthusiasm, and perhaps churns up unexpected jealousy towards those who do not struggle as much. We are bewildered and frustrated that no-one here, neither ex-pat nor local, knows who we really are (or at least who we were, in our previous life). We hang in there, make some friends and enjoy deeper immersion in life here. We even find thrilling opportunities to share Jesus. But then, we hit a plateau. The interest withers and the life transformations aren’t happening despite our prayers, time & effort. We are disappointed in ourselves, perhaps. We ask, ‘where is God’s gospel power?’.
We get weary and frustrated.
So, in this season, I’m fast realising that my joy can’t come from my fluctuating “success”. Why? Because even small wins are often followed by giant setbacks. Because success is demanding, exhausting and I cannot make it happen anyway.
But the real kicker is that the zeal, the “godly ambition” that drives me to persevere, can actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What? Zeal can actually be ambitious pride, anxious toil or me thinking I’m the Saviour.
1). Let a big breath out… because “God has already appointed his Messiah, and he did not appoint you.” [Peter Adam]. Repent and surrender wanting to fix everyone & everything!
2). Ask for a new perspective … that our hearts rejoice not so much in the fruit, but that Jesus will claim us as his own on the last day! See Luke 10:17-20.
3). Take heart in God’s promise that work for the Lord Jesus WILL bring lasting fruit, in his way and time. See 1 Corinthians 15:58.
*If this article touched a nerve, I highly recommend a little book called ‘Zeal without Burnout’ by Christopher Ash.
- – Anonymous Pioneers worker in the Middle East