On the field, especially when you aren’t part of a team, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel like you’re the only one serving.
Because, of course, the work depends on your service, right?
Last week my husband got sick.
We still don’t know what is wrong exactly. But he is in enough pain that he can no longer preach, perform the marriage ceremony scheduled for this weekend, lead Bible studies, or go out for coffee with those who need counseling.
And we are the only cross-cultural workers in the city.
So, when we made the decision to go to a larger city to obtain better medical care and be with family, it was a difficult choice.
It meant leaving new believers with the responsibility of leading Bible studies and preaching. It meant dropping the studies on marriage we were having with the couple. It meant stopping visits to three elderly shut-ins.
It felt like it meant stopping our service.
I now sit in the lovely home of relatives who have taken us in and taken care of us. My husband has had the opportunity to lie down for days and give his body the rest it needs. I’ve let other responsibilities slide in an effort to focus only on his health.
But after a few days here, I realized my husband was still stressed. He was still thinking about the believers, the outreach works, the personal studies, the preaching, the wedding ceremony…
And, I must admit, I was worried about the believers feeling abandoned.
Then, I called one of them.
As she told me how her week had been, I realized that she was just fine. Sure, she seemed thrilled to talk to me, she told me how she had been praying that my husband or I would call her, she unloaded emotionally, and she asked for advice. But really, her life, spiritual or otherwise, hadn’t fallen apart!
She was doing just fine.
The lesson from these past weeks is a difficult one to learn.
We are not indispensable.
The Lord deigns to allow us to serve.
The Lord honors us when we serve.
But the Lord doesn’t need us to serve.
In other words, the work is the Lord’s, not ours.
When we left the city with the drab little, rented Bible Centre, the Bible studies, and the people, the work didn’t stop. We simply weren’t as involved in it. The Lord has continued to work in the hearts and minds of the new believers and everyone else we try to touch.
They miss us, but their spiritual growth doesn’t depend on us.
That knowledge, while humbling, is liberating. We are mere servants! We follow the will of the Lord, and ultimately, He is in charge.
We serve. We do what we can. But when a believer falls into temptation, or when someone we have been sharing the Gospel with cuts off all communication, or when no one shows up for the Bible study, it isn’t on us. Of course, we should absolutely do our best, we should reach out, we should spend as much time as necessary on our knees in prayer. But we are not the lords of the harvest. We are not in control, and we shouldn’t try to be. The spiritual conversion of some, and the spiritual growth of others depends on them and God.
Our responsibility is only to be faithful in the service we have been called to.
We have been called to preach, to teach, to baptize. We have not been called to save, to transform. Those things are up to Him. And he can do that work through our presence, or in our absence.
We are servants of the Lord of the harvest.
That is all.
So, when we go back—hopefully when my husband is feeling much better—we will continue to serve. But I hope to serve with a new perspective. We will serve knowing that we are mere tools in the hands of the true Master of the mission field. We are channels for His love. We are mirrors reflecting His character.
I believe we serve better when we remember: the work is not ours, it is the Lord’s.
So then neither is he that planteth any thing,
neither he that watereth;
but God that giveth the increase.
1 Corinthians 3:7
Have you felt alone in your service? Have you struggled with the feeling that ALL the Lord’swork depended on you? How have you dealt with it?