We are not looking for towering rocks who never get knocked over. We are looking for those who, once they get knocked over, have what it takes to get back up and keep going. If we’re having a bad day and blow up at someone, do we quickly apologize and make things right? If our expectations are disappointed, do we sulk, grumble, or threaten to take our ball and go home? Or do we take our hurts to God, and, putting outcomes in his hands, move forward with peace, revising our expectations? Resilience is what is desired.
Some people are innately more sensitive than others; little things affect them much more deeply. Others are far more easy-going. Which end of the continuum you are closer to is largely a matter of temperament – and so is a relatively stable part of who you are. However, it seems that God has designed the missionary life so that no one, easy-going or not, is able to pass through without struggles, failures, disappointments of such a magnitude as to be unendurable without the ability to cast it all on Him. We all must learn to follow David’s example at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30): “he found strength in the LORD his God”.
A missionary “crashing and burning” overseas is a painful, tragic experience for everyone. Reaching the point of no longer being able to cope can be devastating to one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual health. One’s family, friends, team – all whose lives are connected to that missionary – are affected. Some crack, suffering a breakdown; others burn out, getting bitter, cynical, or just not caring anymore. No one wants that to happen. That’s part of why we have missionary candidates come and live for four months in community at our headquarters. Before we send someone through such a trying experience we want to see some evidence that they will be able to not only cope, but thrive overseas.
Is your physical health weak? Are you easily upset, angered, discouraged, made fearful or anxious? Does your joy and trust in God falter easily? Are interpersonal relationships a continuing source of pain to you? Fragile people need to think twice before going overseas. However, most any weakness can be overcome if there is a close walk with God. Inner, spiritual resilience is an absolute necessity – our purely human resources will too soon be found wanting.