Suffering for the Gospel. When most of us hear this, we think of the persecuted church in countries that are closed to the Gospel. We think of torture, imprisonment, and constant threats on your life. Not being able to freely speak of the goodness of Christ without fear of reprimand. However, all suffering may not be quite as severe as all of this.
Recently, I was sick for about three weeks. I felt so bad that I wasn’t able to do much other than lay in my house. Over the past three years of my time living in Africa, this was definitely the worst I’ve felt and the longest period of time that I’ve been sick. I felt worthless, and even began to even question my purpose of being in Tonj, since I couldn’t accomplish anything or be out with the people. During this time, I began to reflect on some conversations that I’ve had in the past with some teammates regarding suffering. One instance was a recent conversation Tianna and I had regarding her struggle with acne since coming to South Sudan. As silly as it sounds, the battle with acne in South Sudan is a form of suffering. I was also reminded of a conversation I had with a past teammate during a time in Ethiopia when many of us were constantly battling sickness; sleepless nights due to countless runs to the bathroom because of something you ate or drank is a form of suffering. Even though these examples are not quite as “exciting” as stories from Paul or an undercover missionary biography, it’s still part of the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. As my view began to morph from feeling worthless, I tried to focus on being thankful to have been given the opportunity to suffer for the Gospel, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Although I may live in a place where I’m not persecuted for my faith by being tortured, imprisoned or receiving constant threats on my life, there is a cost of leaving my family, having a variety of tropical illnesses and not as many comforts as I would have in America. As a believer, when you say yes to Jesus, that means at all costs, no matter where you are or what the outcome is.
As holidays are upon us, I know that this is a particularly difficult time for me as well as other people who are away from home, and for the families that are left behind. As we are missing our loved ones this holiday season, may we all focus on the cost of discipleship, joyfully proclaiming that Jesus is worth it!
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let your steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4