I know what it feels like.
You ask them how they are and you try to reach out to them in love, but they do not respond. You wrestle in prayer for them everyday, but they do not even ask how you are. You try to be there for them in good times and in bad, yet they ignore you when things are not going their way. And in your attempt to love them by letting the Word of God speak to them, they take it against you.
But out of Christ’s love, you still protect them, trust them, hope in them and persevere in them (1 Corinthians 13). And out of Christ’s truth, you continue to love them.
You intentionally spend time with them even in times of sorrow and fatigue. Yes, even when hard-pressed on every side (2 Corinthians 4:8-12). You are not rich nor earning anything out of it, but you continue to give because you care for them. You do not have enough time for all your errands, but you make time for them. You welcome them not just in your home but in your life, loving them as family. You hold on to them in prayer because you know that only God is able, and you hold on to God’s promises because you long to see them overcome.
Yet some will still doubt and ignore you. Worse, they will question your motives.
Yes, I know it hurts. But there should be no room for discouragement in your heart and thoughts because God says we should not lose heart. Even though outwardly, we are wasting away; inwardly, we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). He also says that we should be steadfast and immovable while working in excellence for the Lord because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
I understand that their refusal to follow Jesus can cut deep, but this is also an opportunity for you to deny yourself before the Lord. Jesus tells us that if we truly want to be His disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). What is God trying to teach you in such circumstance? One thing is clear, He is calling us to move away from the hurt thus our self-centredness so we can move forward to being His true follower – one who selflessly and deeply cares for others (Philippians 2:3-4).
It may seem like hope is too far away, but please remember that you are not alone for you cannot do it alone. Jesus sees and He understands your hurts. He knows very well what it feels like to be persecuted, betrayed, rejected and not being cared for in return (Isaiah 53:3). But even so, He held on to God’s will.
Jesus called Judas a friend even after the kiss that would lead to His arrest. At His arrest, Jesus’ disciples, whom He ministered to for many years, fled and abandoned Him when he needed them the most. Jesus restored Peter even after denying Him three times. And Jesus thought of us, bearing our sin and shame on the cross, even though we do not deserve such kind of love (Romans 5:8).
Therefore, in loving others for Christ, we should do it with and through Christ because nothing good dwells in us apart from Him (Romans 7:18). We will wear off, get hurt and drown in self-pity if we love others based on our own effort. But if we love others out of the overflow of Jesus in our hearts and His redemption in our lives, we realise that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
To you discouraged discipler, please know that you are not a failure. The Lord sees your heart and He clearly understands what you are going through. You can pour it all out to Him.
Keep going. Fight the good fight of faith. Go finish the race (2 Timothy 4:7).
See you at the finish line!