How to View Setbacks

By Lisa, the United States

Oftentimes, many brothers and sisters all believe, we believe in the Lord, so with the Lord’s protection and care, everything should go smoothly and the setbacks and troubles shouldn’t come upon us. But in reality, there are too many kinds of unpleasant things in our life and work, and we often encounter setbacks and hardships. Since we cannot avoid meeting them, then how should we view them? On this point, Sister Su and I had a communication and gained some knowledge. Now, I will share it with you.

Sister Su said with deep emotion, “When I just began spreading the gospel, I was full of passion and confidence. I thought, ‘To redeem us, the Lord was nailed to the cross and gave all His love to us. So, if I witness the Lord’s great love, a lot of people will surely be moved and return to the Lord.’ However, when I spread the gospel, many people either looked at me with an incredulous gaze, or used an excuse of being busy to dodge me, not giving me the chance to preach the Lord’s gospel. Some people listened to me, but before I said much, they said to me, ‘I have to go to work. Come next time.’ Some people that were a little better were willing to finish listening to my fellowship. When I told them to come to the church to attend meetings, they agreed then, yet when the meeting time came, none of them appeared. After a month, I had gone over so much distance and suffered so much, but I only gained few people. At that time, I was very depressed and overwhelmed. I thought to myself, ‘I preached the gospel so hard, but why did I not gain many people?’ There was a very strong sense of sadness and frustration in my heart.

When I was confused and agonized, I could only pray to the Lord and told Him about the pain in my heart. After this, I thought that the Bible records that through sufferings the Lord Jesus completely accomplished His work of redeeming all mankind. (See Hebrews 2: 10). Besides, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 it says, ‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.’ Yes, the Lord is the guide for us in our sufferings. When the Lord is not inside us, we, just like earthen vessels, will be fragile and unable to withstand a single blow, and any small thing may defeat us. However, when the Lord is inside us, our faith will be firm, and no matter how great the setback and failure is, we won’t be defeated easily. After recognizing these things, I thought, ‘The Lord is powerful and has already triumphed over all hardships. Thus there are no things that He can’t do. I should rely on the Lord to continue preaching the gospel.’ Afterward, when I went to preach the gospel, I still met many difficulties and setbacks. However, thinking that the Lord was guiding me from within, I was willing to face them no matter how difficult things were. Through this experience, I often realized that these setbacks allowed me to learn to rely on God, and made my relationship with God closer.”

I continued our topic, by saying, “You’re right. In fact, there is God’s will in Him allowing setbacks and failures to befall us. However, when we don’t understand God’s will, we will usually complain, “Why did I encounter these hardships and setbacks?” Actually, we don’t need to ask why we encountered these, or whether they were from the devil Satan’s attacks or God’s trails. What’s important is with what kind of attitude we should treat them with, and what we have learned from them.”

Sister Su then said, “You saying this has made me think of Moses. Before God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses had stayed in the wild for forty years alone. Judging from the lifespan of us now, it could be said that half of his life was spent in hardship and setbacks. Living alone in the wild for forty years really is a life-and-death test for us. Without faith, we may collapse. However, faced with this hardship, Moses, through praying to God and relying on Him, managed to spend the forty long years in the uninhabited wild which was infested by wild beasts. After Moses was tried by the forty years of hardships, the things that came from hot-bloodedness and natural character in him were all removed. He would no longer hit people with a rock, and his humanity became mature and steady. These were his changes and gains after he experienced this hardship. At last, God charged him with an important mission—to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and save them from the mistreatment of the Pharaoh.”

I said, “Hmmm. That reminds me of the words of the Bible, ‘My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing’ (James 1:2-4). Indeed, experiencing the setbacks and hardships makes us less arrogant, and makes us learn to be humble and patient, rely on God and honor Him as the greatest. Additionally, after these experiences, our life will also become more abundant and perfect.

Over ten years ago, I just began doing church work. I thought that I had some eloquence and gifts, so I tried to do something by relying on my own efforts. I planned how much of the gospel I should preach, and how many churches I should establish, and no matter what we did, I would take the lead. I seldom discussed things with my co-workers and what I said always counted. However, when doing the work of serving God based on my own will, I discovered that my co-workers were estranged from me and we were not of the same mind. Also, my brothers and sisters didn’t obey my commands either. As a result, it was very hard to make progress in the church work. Only after many failures and setbacks did I realize I was so arrogant that I always wanted to make demands of others and command others. What I did was too harmful to the church work and was of benefit to none. Then I prayed and repented to God. I was willing to humble myself, and when doing church work I was willing to discuss things with my co-workers more and listen to the suggestions of my brothers and sisters. Due to the transformation of my attitude, they had also changed, being willing to collaborate harmoniously with me. In the meantime, the work also bore some fruit and gained God’s blessings.”

After hearing my words, Sister Su said, “The setbacks and hardships are indeed what the growth of our spiritual life needs. We are far firmer when we stand up after suffering setbacks and failures than when we don’t suffer setbacks and failures. After suffering these, we will get to have rationality and humanity, and genuinely believe in God and obey Him. Therefore, when setbacks befall us, we don’t need to avoid them, complain, or try to find out why we encounter these hardships. What we should do is to come before God to pray and seek His will. Because God can guide us to triumph over these hardships. It is just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33).

“From listening to your words, my heart is greatly illuminated. Yes! Hardships and setbacks often befalls us, but with God being our support and rock, even when we have suffering and weakness, our hearts feel peace and joy. We Christians should take a long view of the setbacks and hardships we have faced, and not stop advancing due to our being defeated by the momentary setbacks. The Lord is the way and guide for us. As long as we rely on the Lord, we can triumph over all the hardships and setbacks.” I said with certainty.

“Yes, you’re right. Thank God for guiding our communication today. Let’s end our sharing here.” Sister Su said.
“Okay, we’ll chat again next time!”

“Bye bye.”

“See you later.”

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