Our last class before I graduated from the training center was called Suffering. The purpose of the class was not to make us suffer (other classes fill that requirement) or even to mentally prepare us for suffering since “No matter how much we are mentally prepared, the cold water will always take our breath away.” Rather, the class was meant to frame our inevitable hardships with a biblical mindset. We should not be naïve and expect to avoid suffering; we can’t do that even when our life is centered around pursuing happiness. But we can temper our high expectations of seeing people transformed with the understanding that change is hard and takes a long time. “Suffering produces endurance,” (Rom. 5:3) and endurance is necessary for our goal of reaching the world.
Suffering is a normal part of life and required to build needed endurance. Contemplating this might make us wonder if suffering is a good thing. When the apostles were beaten and put in prison to discourage them from preaching Jesus, “They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41) We’ve moved from measuring our quality of life by how much suffering we avoid to thanking God for blessing us with the honor of suffering. Embracing hardship can be a part of pursuing happiness.
Another theme of the class was complex contexts. It’s difficult to find a people group that hasn’t been affected by the wonders of modern technology. Everyone has a cell phone. They are connected directly with the information and communication that comes with a phone, and more subtly with a growing reliance on the infrastructure that comes with it. Every modern convenience comes attached to modern problems; you don’t get toilet paper without a tree harvesting industry, and you don’t get internet without changing your outlook on the world. Now, I don’t expect to get beaten and jailed for my faith, or even lose access to the essential comforts of life, but Brazil is becoming increasingly complex. My expectation is to see missionaries there get discouraged before seeing changed lives. My mindset must be readiness to endure for a long time. My American right to pursue happiness must be superseded by my Christian right to find comfort in God