As a burnt-out missionary, I curled my toes in angst and looked for an exit as the preacher spoke on missions.
A twenty-something hipster bellowed out “We will abandon it all for the sake of the call.” Young adults fell on their tear-stained faces before the Lord in surrender. I struggled between checking Facebook or pretending again that I needed to use the restroom. I couldn’t handle being a part of a mission’s conference.
“Do they understand the sacrifices it means to go to the nations? The PTSD, the malaria-painfilled night sweats, the financial insecurity, the loneliness? My friends and I have been through the ringer.” I demanded an answer from God, while hot streams of bitterness ran down my cheeks. “These worshippers are too naïve to know what sacrifices they are signing up for. Our friend died on the field. How is any of this ok?” I brought up these concerns with a hospital band still on my wrist. Another malaria attack had left me weakened and defeated.
As people around me wept in surrender, I laid my head down and grieved the injustices a calling carries. I grieved missed birthday parties, missed loved ones, and not shopping at Target. Oh, how I grieved Target. “God, these people don’t understand the price of their callings,” I proudly informed Him—self-justified in my jadedness.
No, it would be too much.
“That’s why I’m sitting here with my arms folded, as if untouched by Your presence”
You feel alone, but I understand the price you have paid. I understand because I, Your God, too have left family, comfort, the familiar, and even health. I am calling you to join Me in dying to self. You are not alone in this calling. I understand and want to walk with you in surrender.
“Jesus I wish I could go back to being naïve, to throwing my life to you unabandoned.”
Going requires love. Staying when things are tough requires even greater commitment…long suffering. Continuing to say yes when you know the price is a priceless treasure.
As I listed my griefs to God—things I gave up for His calling—He gave me a gift: His presence. “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NIV). He is our Comforter. In His embrace, the pain lost its grip. I know my Comforter walks the road of sacrifice with me, looking to care for me.
“Anyone who intends to come to Me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering. Embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, of finding yourself, your true self” (Matthew 16:24-25 MSG).
In this moment, and many more to come, I stopped needing to be needed. Ministry stopped being about me. I changed my focus from “my mission” to God’s love. He understood the cost of the call more than I ever could. Jesus came to the dirty and confused planet as a servant, not a tyrant. He can be trusted with my heart and future. My eyes shifted from pain to His goodness and understanding. Feeling united to Him, I said yes to going back to Tanzania.
God takes the bitterness away as I see that I am a co-laborer with Him—a friend, not a dispensable hired hand. This makes serving in Africa, or any hard place, more enticing. We can know the depth and glory of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. No higher honor exists than knowing someone’s heart so intimately?
We are called to sacrifice our comforts as a response to God’s boundless love. Some of us are goers, denying our plans for His heart. Others are givers, joyfully surrendering the resources we often claim as our own. Still others are prayers and skip Netflix or meals to intercede for a friend and a nation.
The sacrifices God asks of us help us understand His deep love. If uncomfortable surrender is what it takes to know my God better, then it is worth it. My reward will be intimacy with Christ, which is even better than a trip to Target.