“Missionary life a life of comfort? You've got to be kidding! Or maybe I signed up for the wrong field with the wrong agency!”
No, cross-cultural ministry is not comfortable. It is often very stressful. Paul's second letter to the Corinthian believers is filled with trouble, trials, tears, disappointments, dangers, discouragements but more, much more. This letter reveals the inner world of a missionary. Why not pause right now to read chapter one.
In vs. 3-4 we find the source of our comfort: God. He is described as “the God of all comfort”...all the time, everywhere, in every situation, for every person, in every season of life. He is always with us and in us; He will always care deeply; He will always be sufficient for every situation we can ever face. How comforting it is to know the God of all comfort.
Vs. 4-7 describe the purpose of the comfort He gives us in our trials in ministry. He allows us to go through many trials so we will be equipped to comfort others in their troubles (4), for the consolation and salvation of others (6) so they in turn will be able to endure suffering and will be able to console others (6,7). Without doubt, suffering increases our capacity to comfort others and to appreciate more deeply the suffering Christ experienced for us.
The result of comfort (vs. 8-11) is that we will not trust in ourselves but in God; more people will help us in prayer and many people will give thanks for God's gift. All of this Paul discovered as he experienced trouble, being burdened beyond measure, burdened above his strength, despairing even of life itself and feeling the sentence of death.
Oh, the amazing ways of God. He makes His strength perfect in our weakness! (II Cor. 12:7-10). No wonder Paul declared: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And further: “For we also are weak in Him, but shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (13:4).
David Livingstone, when being questioned how he could endure so much difficulty and make so many sacrifices, exclaimed: “Sacrifice? What sacrifice? It has all been a privilege!”
Adoniram Judson's son, reflecting on his father's intense sufferings in Burma (now Myanmar), stated: “If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered; if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.”
Our willingness to suffer joyfully reveals that we treasure Him above all else!
Here is a poem I find very challenging and encouraging (note the interplay of the pronouns indicating whether the line refers to the Lord or to us):
When God Wants A Man
When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out--
God knows what He’s about!
quoted from Spiritual Leadership,
J. Oswald Chambers, p. 151
~ A. Roth