Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the ministerial tasks ahead of you? Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to keep up with the demands of the positions to which God has called us—making the option to give up look very desirable. Finding confidence in a daunting ministry is not always easy, but you might find it comforting to know you are not alone.
Big World, Tiny Shoulders
When I was nine, I had a mid-childhood crisis.
I came home after school sobbing. It took my parents forty-five minutes to finally coax out of me what was wrong. Through my tears I explained how at lunch I threw away half of my jelly sandwich because I wasn’t hungry. My teacher witnessed this and told me that there were starving children in Africa who would love to eat my sandwich.
I don’t know how I made it through the rest of the school day. All I could think about were those less fortunate kids who just wanted a jelly sandwich. And here I was, with not only a jelly sandwich but also a fruit roll-up and a bag of carrots.
Once I made it home, I couldn’t even function. My parents tried to get me to play a board game or do a craft, but I went to my room crying. I immediately crawled under my bed because I decided I deserved to be in the dark.
It took some time for me to get over the fact that I was terribly selfish and ridiculously blessed. Once I had dried my tears, I was determined to help. But I was nine and didn’t know what to do about hungry children.
That one comment from my teacher still sticks with me and reminds me of how daunting this sin-tainted world is. Sometimes the thought of it still makes me want to crawl under my bed for a while.
Called to a Life of Hardship
The prophet Jeremiah struggled with a lot more than just a misguided reprimand from an elementary school teacher. At a very young age, God told him to never marry or have children, and commanded him to preach to a tough crowd that had a penchant for false gods.
Despite their refusal to listen, Jeremiah cared deeply for the people of Judah. The lack of results paired with the difficulties he faced, caused Jeremiah to sink into a pit of doubt and despair. But through all of the troubles, God assured Jeremiah this was where he was meant to be.
Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah during times of war and conflict. Because of this violence, rulers had a hard time holding the throne and Jeremiah witnessed the reign of five kings. At times, Jeremiah was considered a friend of those ruling, but depending on the ruler, he often found himself persecuted.
Jeremiah was quite young when he was called into ministry. He was also timid by nature. There had to have been others in the community who were much more confidant, better speakers, and highly regarded; however, those weren’t the qualifications God was looking for. God knew the young prophet was frightened and intimidated and he still chose him to preach to the people.
“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 1:7–8 (NIV)
In chapter 12 of the book of Jeremiah, there is a series of verses detailing Jeremiah’s complaints. He is frustrated with the hypocrisy of the people around him. It drives him crazy to hear how people speak as if they are close to God, but the prophet knows God is far from their hearts.
“You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” –Jeremiah 12:1 (NIV)
The prophecies of pain and destruction discouraged Jeremiah, but God reaffirmed Jeremiah’s position as prophet and answered the weeping man’s complaints and calls. The situation was daunting, the message was frightening, and immediate results were lacking, but with God’s help, this unqualified young man furthered God’s plan and brought glory to God.
“This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 9:23–24 (NIV)
Even in the midst of hardship, Jeremiah trusted God and found a fullness of life. Through guidance from God, Jeremiah prophesied that power and wealth were nothing compared to the delight and joy found through a deeper understanding of God. Rather than overwhelming discouragement, Jeremiah found overwhelming peace in God.
Finding Your Confidence
We all have days where we have to fight the urge to crawl under the bed and hide in the dark—whether it’s because we are daunted by the tasks ahead of us or perhaps embarrassed by our many blessings we know we don’t deserve. This can be especially difficult when we find ourselves in a position with the opportunity to lead others to Christ. It’s easy to get discouraged and our sinful nature fights our attempts to obey God. Rather than run and hide, spend those moments of hyperventilation in prayer.
When you are called to a position that is frightening, intimidating, or overwhelming, take some deep breaths and remember how God responded to Jeremiah when he cried out—with words of comfort and an affirmation of his calling.
“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” –Jeremiah 33:2–3 (NIV)
It’s easy to get discouraged in the midst of hardship, but even in the uncertainty of life there is certainty in Christ. In the same way Jeremiah was able to delight in God while in a challenging ministry, by trusting in the Lord and relying on Him, we, too, can find a new found joy in life—especially during times of discouragement.
For more information on the prophet Jeremiah, check out the book of the Bible named after him or this background information from Biblica.com.