Sometimes life just wears you out. Sometimes you just fall asleep in the wardrobe while you're playing Hide-and-Go-Seek. Sometimes your buddy has to give you a hand.
We have our rough moments in bopping around the world from house to house. One time we ate with a family who was selling a health food drink. As we ate, they gave us the pitch for their product. When we’re eating someone’s food, we’d like to be agreeable, but we didn’t want their health drink. As we tried to graciously decline, the sales pitch escalated. Talk about awkward! We were glad to escape from that one, and now it is just a memory that makes us laugh. Neither of us can remember now who it was that put us through that awkward moment.
In any rough moments, I found that books we have read help put our “sufferings" in perspective. After reading the apostle Paul’s list of tribulations in the Bible, I feel rather petty moaning about “sore-bottomitis” after an 11 hour drive in our padded car. We read Mountain Rain the story of missionary James Fraser, written by his daughter Eleanor. He hiked up and down steep mountains in China to reach the Karen people for the Lord. He was chased and bitten by dogs, shot at, and ate very skimpy food. How can I complain about a cramped car and food not quite as I would have chosen?
If I begin to moan about how often we are far from friends and family, it does me good to remember that in Hudson Taylor’s time, every letter took about two months to go from China to England, and another two months to get the reply. He had to endure the torture of that wait to find out if he had permission to marry his beloved Maria. That story makes me thank God for email, and should shut my lips from complaining about a “slow” connection.
Isobel Kuhn told of staying in crowded, flea infested inns in China. She found the perks in witnessing opportunities that came even while she was in bed. I guess I shouldn’t complain about my precious sleep being interrupted by a dog barking near a B & B where we’re sleeping. I’m called as a missionary, and am blessed in that calling.
Sometimes I'm tempted to complain because I can't join an exercise club or other groups, and it’s tricky to get music lessons for the kids. Woe is me!
Really it should be "Whoa is me" as in Whoa! Put on the brakes, and stop thinking like that! It’s wrong to complain, and the Lord tells us to be content with what we have. I find it matters a lot to whom I am comparing myself. If I look at settled, rich, well dressed church ladies, I can feel dumpy, frumpy, and lumpy, like a real sad sack with problems galore. Right about then it’s good to run across a list of some of the things the Apostle Paul went through and compare myself to him instead. Suddenly I know I’m on easy street, life is cushy, and I can be thankful instead of whiney.
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul tells that he had so many beatings, he couldn’t count the stripes. Suddenly I feel wimpy to have been so upset about the few racial slurs I’ve had thrown at me.
Paul continues, “in prisons”. Well I do have something in common with him! I haven’t spent the night in a prison, but we go there for ministry.
“In deaths” yes, we’ve been touched (more like whammed) by death’s sting. But then the Apostle gets a little ahead of me, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” That shuts up a complaint about my backside being tired of sitting after 10 hours of driving.
“Thrice was I beaten with rods” So I can’t have a garden, at least I haven’t been whacked like that!
“Once was I stoned.” My husband Paul saw a man (a thief) stoned to death on his last trip to Kenya, and just hearing about it was shocking. If only he’d heard about Jesus! If only he’d decided to walk the way Jesus would have him to walk, that man wouldn’t have been stoned. How can I complain about the money used on a trip to Kenya knowing there are needs like his and many others?
In Peru, we got stoned ourselves. We dared to travel in the Andes Mountains on a day when some political party didn’t want us traveling. As we crept up the winding mountain road, Indians threw stones at the missionary’s car, smashing the back window. We didn’t know how ugly things would get on that dark night, and were thankful to arrive with only a smashed window and some dents.
“Thrice I’ve suffered shipwreck,” Well now, there again I can compare with the Apostle. Paul and I got engaged partly as a result of a canoe flipping over!
“In journeyings often.” I’m right with the Apostle Paul! We were away from home 9 out of 12 months last year. That’s journeyings often, but I think I’m catching on. These are things to brag about, not to complain about.
“In perils of water” Yes, we have to be careful what we drink too.
“In perils of robbers” Does it count that I got pick-pocketed in Peru? And my bike got stolen in South Africa.
“In perils by mine own countrymen” No, thank the Lord, we have never had our lives in danger by our own people, though they do present perils such as trying to lure us to live couch-potato lives.
“In perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren…”
If the Apostle Paul seems too long ago and far away, I have a host of others a little nearer who inspire me when I feel like complaining. My family is far away (boo-hoo), yet I am blessed that I can email very often, and get letters back. I read about Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, who had to wait 2 months each way for a letter to go. Imagine the tension as he waited for permission to marry his beloved Maria.
If a lack of privacy bothers me, I need to remember Rosalind Goforth, also in China, who lived with tour groups going through her home from morning to night, so that the Chinese could see that the “foreign devils” were regular people.
Darleen Diebler Rose is another one whose testimony makes me ashamed of petty complaints. She was captured by the Japanese when she was a missionary in New Guinea and spent 4 years in a prisoner of war camp, and was nearly executed for being a spy.
When bugs are an issue, I remember Isobel Kuhn, also in China, and her stories of inns with fleas.
None of those early missionaries had the benefit of an air conditioned car, or trans Atlantic flights, or KFC drive thru’s for quick meals. How can I complain?!
A new-to-me heroine to admire is Granny Brand, a missionary to India who is particularly inspiring in that she kept treating the sick and going after souls until she was in her 90’s. I sometimes find the aches and pains in my 40’s worth airing to the world, but not after a little session of reading about Granny Brand. She was still going around on horseback helping people when she was in her 80’s.
So I’m trying to be careful to compare my life and my trials to people who have lives and trials worth comparing to, people that inspire me to be content with the lot God has granted me, and not with those who might not even have the same goals as me.