As part of our goal of bringing the message and mission of Jesus out of the building and into the harvest, we thought you might enjoy reading some of the personal thoughts of someone trying to do just that. We hope it encourages you as you labor where you are. You can read previous Harvest Diary entries (which we highly recommend) here.
We’ve been doing Church in the Harvest for about 5 years now. If you’re interested in the specifics then I go into more detail here. And I suppose it’s important that you understand the background, because on this particular day a few months ago I was pretty sure we were all wrong and that we’d made a terrible mistake. We’d been wasting our time. We’d missed the boat. We’d failed.
That particular week the work of our heart for almost four years came seemingly crumbling down into dust and nothing. We learned things that had been previously hidden and we were shocked. And I cried.
I called a friend; she and her husband are doing similar ministry in the harvest places (side note: my computer just suggested “hardest” instead of “harvest” and my computer is not wrong). I figured she’d encourage me. But instead, she told me that they’d invited several families over for dinner and all of them had canceled at the very last second, leaving her with a kitchen full of food and a heart that was broken.
So I decided that my initial reaction was right. We should return to the traditional church. The statistics were wrong and anyone really seeking Jesus would just go there. But then I talked to a dear friend who runs the children’s ministry for her church. She and her husband poured out their frustrations. It felt like no one wanted to change. No one wanted to help. Everyone just wanted to sit on their pews and be “fed.” She cried.
If You’ve Felt Like Crying…
So today’s “Harvest Diaries” is for you, dear believer, if you are feeling discouraged in the calling that the Lord has given you. Join me as I share with you what got me through my latest bout of discouragement. For whatever your particular corner of the harvest may be, I’ve been around long enough to know you’ve probably faced some disappointment and discouragement there. So, let us first be reminded that we were called into this world and we are promised that it will not be easy, 1 and then let’s hopefully come out of this with a little more encouragement than just knowing it’ll be rough. Ha!
A Reminder About Fruit
Firstly, in the midst of my great sadness and mourning over what we’d lost (or maybe never had?) I had to face the fact that the “fruit of my labor” is actually not promised to me in necessarily the “way” or the “when” that I see fit. I had made an idol out of our successes and forgotten just where, or rather, who, they come from.2
I was struck by the question, “If we are willing to be sent to our deaths, shouldn’t we also be willing to ‘waste’ our life for the sake of His calling?” The answer should be yes. So, while we’d rightfully spent so much time trying to be ‘smart’ in our ministry, the bottom line was we may do everything ‘right’ and the Lord may just want our life as His sacrifice. And that should be enough for us. Or at the very least we should know that what the Lord sees as success is often very different from our worldly view of it! 3
The Help of the Saints
But next, we did go before our trusted elders and poured out our woes. We knew that this was still an important time to examine our own hearts and check to see if there was any other hurtful way in us4 When we face these times of discouragement it is so helpful to rely on the Body of Christ to give wisdom and comfort, especially those who have paved the way before us. We are not called to this work alone! We were not disappointed and we were both instructed and encouraged in those bittersweet times. I am SO thankful for our church family.
Where else can we go?
We also doubled down on our prayer and fasting. Just as we turned to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we most importantly had to cling to the cloak of our King. I truly felt like one of the disciples, confessing, “where else could we go?” 5 and in a way isn’t that the greatest gift we can give the Lord? To stand with Him even when things are hard and seem impossible? When faced with discouragement it does the heart great good to remember that even when everything is stripped away the cross still stands.
That time of prayer and fasting also helped us because it brought us back to what we had seen in the light. We are all called to believe in the darkness what we have seen in the light. 6
And prayer and fasting facilitated the reminder that we needed to go back to instruction that the Lord had given us in the past, and that He still had for us – even when it gets hard!
From the Valley to the Hills
I’ll finish this confession by saying that since this time of deep discouragement our ministry has been busier and seemingly more productive than ever! It reminds me that none of our successes or failures are truly ours. They’ve already been laid down and covered by the Sacrifice of Jesus. The valleys often go on longer than this particular one has (I have proof of that from past experiences in the valley places!) but I am thankful that the Lord has a season for everything! If you, too, find yourself in a valley place, be comforted by the many saints (unsung and unnamed) who have gone before.