Wasteland Kings

I easily get discouraged and lose heart.

When this happens, I doubt whether God wants what’s best for me and sometimes even despair. These are not the prettiest times in my head, heart, and soul. I experienced one of them while I was in Ethiopia and God delivered me from my discouragement and despair in dramatic fashion.

It all started with the plane ride. My body does not enjoy traveling on long plane rides and I don’t sleep well on them either. The effects of the plane ride took a couple days to wear off and that made my attitude less than joyous for those two days.

We started our ministry work on our second day and I jumped into the work with my less than stellar attitude. The results of the day did not help either. I split my time between walking for awhile and talking with one group of farmers for well over an hour.

While the farmers were happy to hear my testimony and talk about faith, none of them wanted to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. All of them wanted to go home and talk with their families first. This made for an exhausting first day with nothing to show for my efforts and it brought my attitude even lower.

When I woke up from some mediocre sleep on Tuesday, our third day of the trip, I was not excited to be in Ethiopia. To be fair, I’m rarely excited upon arriving to consciousness. My lack of excitement extended past the first few minutes of the day though and lasted through breakfast.

I still remember the internal monologue after breakfast where my discouragement reached it’s greatest height and my attitude it’s greatest depth. I don’t remember what happened on Tuesday morning that led up to the woe filled monologue and that’s and important point. Discouragement and despair can snowball quickly and pick up a dozen little things until a giant weight hangs down around our shoulders.

I made the terrible decision that morning to push through the rest of the week and use whatever strength I had to make it home. That’s a poor attitude to carry with you into ministry and I should have alerted one of my team leaders about it. Thankfully, God came to my rescue and picked me up from the mire of my bad attitude.

Talking with my team and enjoying the scenery on the van ride out to the village began to lift my spirits; the sense of adventure can do wonders. By the time we made it to the village, I was happy to play soccer with the kids and excited to share the Gospel with others. About an hour into soccer, I was called over to share the Gospel with a group of guys and I was thrilled at the opportunity.

Things didn’t go exactly to plan though and after another hour and a half of talking I sat staring at a collection of blank faces. Discouragement rushed back in and started wrestling my attitude down to the ground. I thanked the guys for taking the time to talk and went back to playing soccer while the internal wrestling match continued.

A few minutes later, our entire team was invited to a coffee ceremony at one of the houses in the village. The house belongs to one of our Ethiopian team members who was helping us in our ministry. I can’t think of our time in that house without a smile coming to my face.

While it would take too long to tell you every detail from the story, I can say that it was one of the most memorable times of prayer, worship, and fellowship. At one point, a dozen of us, both Ethiopian and American, jumped up and down for most of a worship song. I still remember some of the smiles and the shouts for joy.

Our time in that house lifted my spirits to incredible heights and broke the power of discouragement over me. I rode back to the hotel that day with a big smile on my face and excited about the rest of the week. Our short time in that house reminded me that God wants to rescue us from more than our sin.

He wants to help us in all of our struggles. Sometimes, it difficult to believe God cares for us in this way and we have to keep our heads up until His help arrives. I hope and pray that in the future this story will serve as a reminder of God’s constant presence in our lives and His desire to help us battle discouragement and despair.

Do you ever struggle with a bad attitude or discouragement? What helps you in those times? Do you believe God is always in your corner and ready to help?

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Matthew Rial

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