Photo credit: Michele Fabbrini
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Cor 1:5
Missions and ministry are often glorified in Christian circles and rightly so. Prior to going into ministry, I used to think of pastors as more like celebrities I admired with sort of super spiritual powers of their own. The Christian ministry is an all-encompassing sacrifice to undertake which requires God’s anointing grace and much suffering. It is not that somehow those in this office are more “spiritual” per say. Although they should set a good example as their followers cannot rise higher than their teachers (Luke 6:40). Moreover, those called to preach the gospel and oversee the church will need more encouragement, love, and prayers as they receive the most spiritual, physical and emotional attacks. If Satan takes down those in leadership steering the church, he can easily take down the entire ship. As a pastor’s wife I have witnessed first-hand how discouraging and draining pastoral ministry can be.
Going into ministry, I learned of the fierce battle against those in leadership. Even though I am no longer a pastor’s wife, I still feel the adversary’s attacks from time to time. We are told in Scripture that “All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2Tim3:12) and if the world hated Christ, the world will hate us (Mt10:24, Jn15:20). Spiritual warfare overwhelms me now even more because I feel like I am fighting alone. Yet, this bewildered feeling is not me abiding in what is true, rather absorbing the poison of another one of Satan’s fiery darts. The truth is the LORD is with us (Joshua 1:9) and we have each other within the church. Even if we were truly left all alone or every friend was to forget to pray, the Lord is our defender. It is far better to have the Lord of a vast and infinite host of angels as our defender than the strongest of human military powers. Lasting joy and comfort can only come from above. “Comfort based on human wisdom is short-lived, because I does not address the deep issues of the heart. The only true source of hope and strength is God’s supernatural, transcendent comfort that comes by the Spirit and the Scriptures.” John MacArthur
Those who have surrendered their lives and families to the work of the Lord will experience the worst of sufferings. At the same time, they will also receive the best of comforts. Recently while I worked on writing a memoir of our lives stationed at the front lines of ministry, at first I found myself thinking I would NEVER choose to go into the service again. As I completed the memoir, I recounted God’s comforts. Then, God used a recent sermon on this exact passage to further convict me to change my mind. There is an immense reward from suffering for righteousness. Furthermore, a call from God is not a choice one can refuse. If we had to suffer wouldn’t we want it to be for doing right rather than for doing wrong? No matter what God might be calling us to, even if it meanings suffering for the sake of the gospel, may we not run away from God’s call in disobedience like Jonah. Let us run toward God in repentance and be willing to go to depths of the earth for His name’s sake.
“When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:7-9