“In What Ways Do You Feel Like You’re in Over Your Head?” — Questions You Can Ask a Missionary, Part 7
Our friends (and fellow missionaries) Keith and Lori Doster recently linked to an article about stressors that missionaries face. The original article is called 12 Questions You Can Ask a Missionary to Help Them Stay on the Field. Missionaries are not unique to these stressors; however, they do face them in situations where they often feel vulnerable and lonely.
If you know any missionaries, I encourage you to support and encourage them by asking one or more of these questions (but not all 12 at once!). For the sake of our friends, supports, and blog-readers, I wanted to proactively answer these questions over the next few months. (Of course, feel free to ask us these questions personally.)
Question 7: “In what ways do you feel like you’re in over your head?”
I like how this question assumes that I’m in over my head. Because I am. And I think that is a part of being a disciple and living on mission.
If you never feel like you’re in over your head, it means you are not risking anything. (Of course, you could feel like you’re overwhelmed for the wrong reasons, but that’s another post for another day.)
Being overwhelmed with life is a good thing, even when I don’t like it. Being overwhelmed drives me toward Jesus, because my own resources and spirit are lacking. I am reminded that the gospel is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).
From the Get-Go
The fact that I’m in over my head has been apparent since I started working in Allendale. God helped me understand that the “harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” That’s true in Allendale, and everywhere. There is no place on earth where Christ’s redemption is not needed.
From my first days at the Boys and Girls Club, I would go home (rather, to my home away from home) completely exhausted. After having spent 4 hours with 80 or more students – playing, counseling, enforcing discipline, teaching, etc — I was empty and I knew that I was in over my head.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it full speed.
Then, each morning, God would wake me up with a new energy, ready to do it all over again, Groundhog Day style. I treasured the words that a friend told me, “You are the right man for the right job at the right time.”
How Am I in Over My Head?
When I have a lot of simultaneous jobs and ministries (paid and un-paid), I tend to feel stretched. As much as I like having my hands in multiple endeavors, it catches up with me and wears me out (physically and mentally). I’m thankful for my understanding, supportive, and hard-working wife, who fills in my gaps regularly.
Beyond work and ministry, I often feel deeply overwhelmed spiritually and emotionally. I’ve written about this before, and so I’ll just quote a couple of past posts. (Click on the titles if you want to read the full posts.)
We’re wondering what work and ministries God has for us.
We’re wondering how much of an impact we can really have.
We’re wondering how much to focus on having an impact ourselves, and how much we should be focusing on equipping and developing others to have an impact. . . .
We’re wondering how this is affecting our children in the long run.
We’re wondering how this is affecting our marriage in the long run.
We’re wondering how this is affecting our spiritual health in the long run.
We’re wondering how and when God is going to bring Allendale to a better place.
We’re wondering if we’re even wondering about the right issues.
During the Saturday evening session, I was sitting in the row behind four of the guys from Allendale. As the teaching and singing went on, I watched them, and I could not help but be filled with questions.
Is this worth it? What are these guys getting out of this? Are we really having an impact in their lives? In fact, are we having a long-term impact in anyone’s life in Allendale? Is anything going to change for them?
If you think to pray for us, don’t just pray that we will get all our tasks done. Don’t just pray that we will have the energy and wisdom that we’ll need.
Pray that we would continually depend on Jesus, and look to Him, worshiping Him in all His sovereignty, grace, and power.
“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)
**images courtesy of Colin_K via fotopedia