“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:16-20
A dear friend of mine and I were talking a few months ago about God’s innate ability to use everything to His glory. I know that I’ve mentioned God’s desire to use our suffering for good numerous times, but I have yet to paint it in the light that I’m about to.
When we think of the mission field, we usually think of foreign lands and continents; and though it certainly is part of the “mission”, it isn’t the mission in its entirety.
The missionary’s purpose is to proclaim the Truth that sets the captives free and to care for the needs of the people! Therefore, by definition, the mission field is everywhere! There are spiritual and physical needs all around us right where we are! We don’t have to get on a plane to participate in the “Great Commission”, though for some, it is God’s will.
Back to the conversation that I had with my friend; we were discussing how hard it can be to face a physical disability, disorder, and/or illness. Her and I, as well as some other dear friends of ours have unfortunately walked that road. After sharing about the feelings of uselessness that come with physical ailments, my sweet friend shared something from her Bible study by Beth Moore. She said this:
“Every time we’ve been broken and then allowed God to repair us, that mending becomes part of our equipping. All of the pain we’ve endured. All the abuse and misuse. Every betrayal. Every wound. Where God mends, He equips. We embrace a hurting woman (or man) with far greater empathy because we’ve been one. We’re equipped to minister to her (or him) precisely because God has sewn up our similar wounds. Do you see it? If we still have life and breath, God can re-purpose every shred of havoc the devil wreaks.”
So very true!! Everybody knows that physical ailments are often painful or uncomfortable physically. Something that people don’t expect though, is that its often painful emotionally as well. Though her statement can apply to any and every hardship; I feel specifically led to speak to the issue of physical struggle… especially when the healing doesn’t come and it becomes hard to see how it can be used for good! We may find it easy to feel like our illnesses are pointless and useless, but I assure you that they are not.
A few years ago, I watched one of the sweetest; most godly; and unfortunately, youngest women I have ever known succumb to illness after a failed heart and lung transplant. She wasn’t yet 30 years old… only one year older than me in fact. We couldn’t understand why this was her fate. She loved God and people like no one I had ever seen. From a human perspective, we all felt like God had made a mistake. Then the day of her funeral came; the sanctuary was packed full to overflowing. Her life was celebrated with joy and God was glorified! It didn’t feel like a funeral at all, it felt like a worship service. At the end, a large number of people gave their hearts to Christ for the first time. At that moment, everything became a little clearer… although, we missed her terribly, God reminded us that our love for her would never be greater than His own love for her… He loves us all the same way. He had simply called her home to a life free of suffering and saved many others in the process!
You see, we know that God allows missionaries to travel to foreign countries, to dangerous lands, to prisons, and even to their death for His glory and the good of the world but do we realize that He often allows us to walk through suffering for the same reason? Although God cares deeply about the here and now, He is Heaven minded and cares more about keeping us from an eternity of suffering than He does keeping us safe from temporary ones.
What if He can make even our illnesses and hardships part of His mission? Now I’m not at all proposing that God is pleasured by our pain and suffering because He’s not! We must never forget the truth that it wasn’t part of His original design and that He has promised to return and restore earth back to its perfect state, absent of all suffering! However, the fact that He has chosen to allow it to take place without allowing for it to be wasted speaks volumes to His power and sovereignty! He is good and only allows what can be used for your good and the good of others. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Just like the missionaries locked behind bars in foreign countries, there are missionaries who are locked up in the prisons of their own bodies. God is the Healer, but there are times when eternal blessings are best accomplished through suffering. My dear friend Brooke who’s story I just shared, embraced her mission of speaking to those who were suffering physically. She did so by being an example of grace and compassion. Those who have suffered great pain are usually the first to recognize it in others and the first to reach out to the hurting. You can test this out in yourself. You will find that our hearts are usually tender towards our own experiences. Being able to relate opens the door for empathy and compassion.
What are your experiences? What are your sufferings? Have you made them part of your mission? If not, wouldn’t it be a good use of our alone time with God to surrender our sufferings to Him in such a way that makes them usable to Him… to use for good what Satan means for evil? Talk about disarming the enemy… let us slay him with his own weapon… and not just in our own lives but in the lives of others as well!
There are those around you who are suffering and who feel alone, counted out, and lost. You’ve been where they are! There’s the need, now go counter the lies of the enemy with the Truth that God loves them and is well acquainted with every kind of suffering. Hebrews 53:3 (Amplified Version) says this: “Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings.”
Maybe you don’t feel adequate enough to make it a “Mission”… You don’t have to because the truth is that you aren’t and neither am I! We are called to let the Holy Spirit have His way in us and depend solely upon Him and His adequacy. Our only responsibility is to obey. If we just let God be God, He will do the rest! Embrace your mission field because whether it’s to those hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually… it is for a purpose that He has chosen to send you! God Bless You All!!