While James urges us not to be disheartened when facing trials, the truth is it's hard. Even John the Baptist questioned Jesus when he was facing his most difficult trial. In Matthew 11:3, he says, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” I believe what John the Baptist was asking was, Lord, where are you? Have your forgotten about me? Why haven't you come to save me? Did I hear you right?
I too have cried out to God, Where are you? Did I do something wrong? Why haven't you delivered me from this horrible situation? I find the answer when I take time to reflect on the words of Jesus in John 16:33: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is with us in the pit. He has not forgotten us. He has not changed his plan. Let us move forward in the face of difficulty by clinging to the peace that God provides.
Focus on God, Not the Results
Mother Theresa once stated, "God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful." I often remember this quote when I'm disappointed in ministry. We can sometimes focus on the end result rather than the one who has called us. But this is a mistake.
When I was in Ghana, I traveled with a team of missionaries to a village 16 hours away by car. The road was bumpy and unsafe. We had to hire armed guards to protect us on our journey that began at midnight. The final leg of our trip was to cross a dangerous river by boat—a large canoe, really, that slowly filled with water. The only light we had was from our video camera. Fearful, I focused on the story of the disciples crossing the stormy lake to encourage myself while I crossed a version of our own.
Why did we take this crazy journey? We went to baptize a former voodoo priest. The ministry had presented the gospel to this man five years prior to my arrival. At that time, the voodoo priest told the pastor that he had no reason to accept Christ. He said his voodoo had served him well—he had a large family, land, health. Five years later, however, he became ill. The family said he was in a semi-comatose state, but he kept requesting that the pastor come because he wanted to accept Christ. I assume he remembered what he heard about Jesus Christ. I don't know what happened over those five years or what happened once the man fell sick, but I know that I met a man who desperately wanted to become a follower of Christ. We walked through the bushes of this remote village singing songs of Zion while this man was carried to the river to be baptized. After we dipped him in the water, he rose with sounds of joy and tears of peace.