You may be feeing "stuck" right now. Trust me when I say I completely understand. I’ve been there. Sometimes it just seems nearly impossible to go forward and you want to throw in the towel. Before you do, do you mind if I share a few thoughts with you - if you do - just stop reading :). If not, read on:
Our first work was unbelievably challenging. We were 200 miles from home, just turned 20, newlyweds, and working in a mission outreach church of about 25-30 members. Every week was a challenge, I was trying to go to school full-time, work two jobs and present three times every Sunday. I attended my first adult class there - which I was the teacher! The people seemed backward (we were from two completely different cultures) and they weren’t open and nice and accepting. Melanie's faith was weakened (only time in our 33 years of marriage that I've experienced that) and I questioned if I was cut out for preaching. There was NO energy. I’m not speaking ill of that church or those people - God used them to help teach me some important things.
Looking back I've thought about what I learned from the experience:
1. I believe that perhaps God "let me go there" so that I would appreciate everywhere I got to go since then. We've never since had a lack of appreciation for the places we've been. o, while you may be enduring a lot of junk right now, it may be that you will appreciate everywhere you go from this point forward - i.e. “Things can only get better!”
2. I saw it as a time to learn: My question in ANY HARD work is - what are you learning from this that will make you better from this point forward. When I talk to someone who has been fired, allowed to resign or is leaving a particularly difficult place - I hurt with them but I really want to ask one question - “What have you learned from this that will make you more effective the rest of your life of service?”
In a difficult setting it is so easy to become negative and let that lead to bitterness and such discouragement that you quit - that would only make satan HAPPY! his goal accomplished. And there is always the snowball effect when that is happening. BUT who knows what God might be preparing you for? Who knows if this time of refinement is designed to prepare you to be bold and grand for Him in some other place.
What if Job had tapped out with the news of his camels being stolen? What if Paul had quit the first time he'd had his apostleship challenged? What I see often is that instead of learning from challenging times we just develop a bad memory toward that place. But if you can learn something great from this hard time you will actually be able to appreciate the difficulties.
3. This one is big: My opinion is that when the work is challenging and you feel so lonely and isolated and under-appreciated - that this is a great time for you and your spouse to grow closer together. adly I've seen it lead to some couples growing apart but what a time to cement your marriage. “It’s just us, our family” - commit to growing spiritually as a family even more right now.
4. Sorry, but this is a time to grow your own spiritual roots deeper: Pray for and with your wife and for the kids. Pray for that sad church and it's future, pray for joy in the midst of misery.
5. Change your focus: We can become myopic and miss what God is/can do. I’ve learned in the worst of setting, when we are faithful, God is still at work. I learned that from reading the first three chapters of Revelation. Even in the most challenging of those churches Christ saw good and hope. Is these one who you can influence who might be a future leader? one who might leave there and influence another place? one who sees your faith in the fog and is strengthened to go hand on themselves?
6. You may be there for a reason for THEM: I know you know this but it can’t help for us to be reminded. Listen, it is not all about us. We don’t do this for comfort and ease. If that was the reason we were in this we’d go into some cushy comfortable job like defusing bombs! In some ways isn’t your hardest work where you might be MOST needed. If all was well they would not need you. Be God’s man in a tough spot - like Titus was in Paul’s estimation.
7. Give it enough time: Looking back I wonder if I gave that work the solid effort I should have. Like Paul in Corinth we may not see that God has bigger plans and many people there (Acts 18:9-10). Now, as to how much time is enough - that varies depending on your tolerance level and your family. It was time for me to go when I thought my wife’s faith was in trouble. My one word would be don’t give it so much time it destroys your faith or that of your family.
If I were satan I would use discouragement. If he can’t get me to teach false, can’t make me sin morally - then attack me in a way that makes me feel ineffective or makes me want to quit.
Brothers, I hope none of this sounds like I'm preaching at you (though that is what I'm paid to do :)). know many of you are dealing with a lot challenging and with some sure burnout and discouragement. Please let me know how I can help.