Doors to ministry close for many reasons, and the events of recent days (the crisis in Afghanistan) can certainly show us how quickly everything we’ve worked for can come to a screeching halt. Today, however, such events make me think of another reason for closed doors—a crisis of faith.
Leaving the comfort of our own homelands is cause enough for inner turmoil, but most of us expect there to be some kind of adjustment, even if we don’t realize just how much. For those coming from the United States or other countries that have a strong Christian presence or history, nothing really prepares us for life in a country ruled under laws founded on other religious or secular principles.
There is little mercy where biblical principles have no say in local legal systems.
We arrive on the scene ready to share the good news of Christ, and then find ourselves struggling not only to learn how to do that in another language but in a place where we are not welcomed. We press on leaning on Christ and other believers to help us through. Yet, if a cold reception and language barriers don’t stop us, poverty and evil can.
Injustice on multiple levels can challenge our faith.
The nightly news on Afghanistan opens up this reality to a larger and mostly unaffected audience, but missionaries and cross-cultural workers have been faced with it for decades. While most can simply turn off the television or scroll past a report, believers on the ground must wrestle with two main questions:
Does what I’m doing make a difference?
Why is God allowing such suffering?
Whether we can answer the question or not, our faith is challenged and even shaken. For those who do not find reconciliation, vision is lost and sometimes even faith. Doors are closed to current work. Bags are packed and people are left behind with their own set of questions.
If you find yourself wrestling with such questions and issues, it is important not to struggle alone. Satan loves nothing better than for a struggling Christian to be isolated and left alone in their thoughts. After initial prayer for help, search the Scripture for guidance and pull in trusted colleagues, mentors, or pastors to pray with you through the darkness.
The Bible doesn’t beat around the bush about evil. This is Satan’s principality for the time being, and he’s built his kingdom well. There are two temptations to us when living among nonbelievers—either we get pulled into their mindset and way of life (think Lot in Sodom), or we see no way for Christ to win the battle, letting love for a people turn into bitterness and hate (think Jonah in a fish). Either way is a loss for the Kingdom of Christ.
This, however, is a spiritual battle Satan won’t win.
When we move to another land, we are not just putting our feet on the soil of another nation, but we are entering into a spiritual battle royale. Don’t let the evil and injustice around you pull your eyes off the prize of chipping away at Satan’s stronghold.
Each person who hears of Christ, who accepts him as Savior, who meets for discipleship, who begins to share their faith with others—each person is a portal for God’s Spirit to reach another and another for eternity.
Just like the guilt we feel in leaving people behind because we have to leave a country due to war or upheaval or health, the reality of evil, poverty, and injustice can send us into a crisis of faith. Remember the victory has already been won by Christ and rest in the good you can do one day at a time for his Kingdom and his glory.
In the thick of the battle, it’s hard to see that the victory is sure. In the dark places of our world, it’s good to remember we’re on the winning side and press on in faith.
Grace and Peace