I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.Psalm 57:2
I watched a short video online today about three unreached people groups in the Himalayas. The need is staggering and my heart was gripped to see images of beautiful people, made in the image of God, who had no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was a moving introduction to an evangelist from Asia who did not have to cross as many cultural barriers to reach the unreached people groups. Statistics were displayed about the disparity of Christian workers among reached vs. unreached peoples. And I was hit again by a familiar guilt at not being nor wanting to be a foreign missionary as a knot formed in my stomach.
I have struggled with this feeling in these past few years, and God has spoken to it at various times. Still, I am hindered by these feelings of guilt that do not compel me to action and involvement in global missions, but cause me to avoid messages, videos, etc. addressing the need and call to foreign missions. It is not that I think it unimportant. On the contrary, my heart knows the need, the call, the “how can they call upon the one whom they have no believed in??” and if I think deeply enough upon in, I am moved to tears by the enormity of the need and the lostness of those who were made in order to bring God glory. It is not that I do not feel “called” by God to “go” (I don’t think one needs a specific “call” in order to go). But my heart does not desire to go.
Part of it is that I don’t believe that Jeff and my gifts are geared toward long-term foreign missions work. We have served in ministries (in the states and overseas on multiple short-term trips) and it seems as if we have been more effective working in the local church, counseling and discipling believers. This is where we have been fruitful by the grace of God. This is what I enjoy doing and find, I believe, God-given delight in. The convictions I have about foreign missions are real, but they are different than the convictions I have about the local church, the need for sound doctrine in the church, Biblical counseling and discipling, and the need for Gospel-centered families that live out their faith and open their homes to younger believers, missionaries, and non-believers to the glory of God. The conviction about the latter is different because of the strong desire I have to be a direct part in it. I would love to be involved in foreign missions through giving, sending, and praying. But honestly, in my heart I think I feel these are cop-out ways that are due to my unwillingness to suffer for the glory of God. I had this kind of attitude in pride towards other people in the past when talking about missions and I need to repent of it. It was built upon a false understanding of spirituality, living for God’s glory, worship, calling, etc. But because of this compulsion that I had that was based upon an incomplete understanding of these things, I find myself now not even living out what I would like to as a sender. I am too busy trying to cover up guilt and condemnation by avoiding taking an active part in missions at all.
Can I be all out a part of God’s global work while here in New York? Am I being disobedient to stay when God hasn’t given a clear call to stay? Am I disqualifying myself from being able to encourage people toward the mission field when I myself am not going and I can’t say “Well, the only reason I’m not going is because God ‘made’ me stay”? If I can’t encourage people toward the missions field, will whatever ministry I serve in end up being insular and uninvolved in God’s global purpose and the needs of millions of unreached? These are the questions in my heart. My mind says, yes, I can be a part of God’s global work here. No, I’m not being disobedient. No, I am not disqualified and I do not motivate people toward missions in and of itself, but they will go if God calls when I encourage them towards worshipping God and following him with wholehearted pursuit. My heart still needs to be reminded of the truth though when I feel accused. I want to be free from this guilt and be passionately be involved in global missions the way God has called me to be.
After watching that video clip, I read Psalm 57 and verse 2 comforted me. In the midst of being pursued by enemies, David cries out to God for deliverance. While crying to God to save him, he confidently asserts that God will fulfill his purpose for him. In the same way, God is able to save me. He can deliver me from the accusations of the evil one, based on falsehood and twisting of God’s truth. He can also save me from the the temptation to live a life founded on comfort, self-centeredness, and self-preservation (the things I fear I would live for if I don’t become a missionary). He will fulfill his purpose for me. Thank you, Lord.
I think that much of my guilt about missions is because in the past, I was operating with an understanding God’s calling and purpose that wasn’t completely Biblical. Some of the main problems were issues of the sacred-secular divide, emphasis on personally fulfilling the Great Commission vs. it being a charge to the whole church and in the context of worship, and measuring fruitfulness with goals related to tangible numbers of people converted (or discipled so they could evangelize so there would be more converts).
In God’s sovereignty, I listened to a talk given by Carolyn Mahaney today on”being busy at home” today after wresting with lingering guilt. I have been listening to her series on Titus 2 and SGM messages on Biblical womanhood. I am also reading her book, Feminine Appeal. These resources, plus reflecting on the examples of godly women in my life, have been so helpful, liberating, and challenging at the same time. I have always said that my desire was to be a wife and a mom, serving within that context in ministering to people. If I don’t have to be a missionary to please God and live for his Kingdom, I still want to live purposefully and understand my calling in life Biblically- passionately and to his glory. Please pray for me as I continue to wrestle with and learn about what God has called me to in this season as a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mom, and a member of the local church.