There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have the thought, “I am a missionary.” Maybe some people get used to it, but after three years I never really do. It’s a good thing though, because I am constantly reminded that God has blessed me with a unique opportunity to serve Him and die to myself every single day.
On the other hand I struggle with feeling discouraged, as we all do. But sometimes I feel especially overwhelmed by the fact that we are missionaries, and our calling is strange. Our specific calling doesn’t fit into any of the ordinary missionary journeys that many other missionaries take. We spend almost all of our time investing in relationships with people, which takes place in various forms. I spend a lot of time with other moms that have young children. I am very blessed to have both believers and unbelieving friends to spend time with. Recently I was able to lead a friend into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You would think something like that would validate our presence here, but it doesn’t. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am really full of joy to welcome another sister into the flock of believers of Jesus. But I have come to realize that the only thing that can validate my journey as a missionary is God. No matter what happens, God is the one that tells me what to do and where to go. Honestly, He is the one I answer to. Even though we have plenty of accountability and support from the pastoral staffs of our supporting churches (which is very important for all missionaries), God is truly the one that guides us. My husband does a lot of “unconventional” missionary tasks, like going to Jiu Jitsu, or spending time driving teenage boys back and forth to their soccer games (this is pretty much my favorite thing he does, these teens have such a special place in our hearts!).
But there have been many, many tears getting to the point of being able to rejoice in this strange place (geographically and ministry wise) God has us in.
I feel like I have gone through some kind of torturous missionary boot camp over the last three years. I have gone through some crazy things, just to list a few… my father had heart surgery and I wasn’t there, my brother (and only sibling) got married and I wasn’t there, we had a baby in a foreign country, enrolled our oldest child in school for the first time in a language we can barely understand, had visa issues, had a moped crash into our car, experienced my husband having serious health problems… the list goes on, but you get the idea. These last three years have been hard, and lately it has really started wearing me down. Well, on top of sometimes unbearable homesickness. I haven’t been back to the US in almost two years, which is the longest I have been away between visits.
All this to say, yes, sometimes it is too hard for me and I am completely discouraged. That comes out in different ways but this last week I have been a complete and total mess. Then something happened… I was working on our update and I thought about how much joy I get out of serving God in Greece. I know there isn’t any other place He wants me and my family to be right now, and that is comforting. Two years ago, when we were going through a particularly difficult trial God gave us this verse,
“For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it;”
In so many ways I felt that was a promise for us, and a warning, not to try to justify our obedience to what He was instructing us to do. God told us just to be quiet, listen to His voice, and trust Him to take care of us. And guess what? He did! And He continues to.
So when I saw this verse today I thought, this perfectly sums up my life at this moment. The last three years have been far from easy, but,
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
I know that all the tears I have wept for this country and through all of our difficult times here, we reap joy. Today, in this moment, I am enjoying that. I’m not saying I’ll still be a rational person half an hour from now, but at this very second, I feel the joy of the Lord that comes from the tears only God has numbered.
The second, and last verse of this very short Psalm also gives me great hope:
“He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.”
And in case you are wondering how to deal with discouragement, I will tell you the three steps a very wise woman gave to me… Face it… Take it to the cross… Get over it. It sounds simple, and it can be, but sometimes I tend to over complicate it. God is so gracious and merciful to me!
May God bless you and sow joy from your tears.