This excerpt from my book, Surviving Service: Effective Response to God’s Call for Justice (pages 158-160), was a helpful reminder to me this month as I worked through some issues in my current (incredibly challenging) helping role. I hope it encourages you as well!
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)
I used to think of the harvest as a glorious final gathering from all the work that had been done. But it is actually pretty rough out there. There are thorns, snakes, muddy areas, and rotten crops to work around.
The harvest is plentiful, but messy.
No matter how hard you try, you will be affected by those things. It will affect your life in both good and hard ways, so you need to be prepared to work through difficulties.
A mission trip leader once put it like this: “If you’re not getting hit by the shrapnel, you’re not close enough to the war.”
You may end up taking some things home with you, mentally and emotionally. What you see may impact your relationships and how you view people around you. For survival and longevity in this type of work, it is essential not to allow the problems you encounter to take over your personal life. When you start to see that happening, step back a bit and make sure you take care of yourself.
We cannot bring hope to others when we do not embrace it ourselves.
A friend once reminded me, “People like us tend to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Our job is simply to join into the positive things around the world. Don’t doubt in the darkness what you learned in the light.” There is hope, and we need to hold onto it!
Above all, we need to hold onto the joy and hope of the Lord as our strength, rather than any fleeting feelings of success in helping people.
God’s light is bright enough to illuminate the darkest places!