Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) endured numerous hardships in his thirty-eight years of pioneer missionary work in Burma. He experienced: permanent separation from family and friends in the homeland; protracted periods of isolation and loneliness; spartan living conditions; challenging ministry circumstances in a pagan religious culture that opposed Christianity and persecuted Christians; recurring, debilitating illness from foreign disease; the deaths from illness of two wives (at ages 36 and 41), six young children and several missionary colleagues in their 20s and 30s; the strain of living under a government that was despotic, corrupt, capricious and sadistic; extended imprisonment in a pair of Burmese death prisons where he endured horrific, brutal conditions.
Judson readily acknowledged the difficulty and heartache of undergoing such trials. But at the same time he ever trusted the Lord and sought to willingly submit himself to the divine will even in the midst of marked hardships. In facing trials, Judson did not assail God’s character, question His wisdom or doubt His love. Instead, he clung to the fact that God is totally righteous, all wise and ever loving as the bedrock truths upon which he could firmly stand in enduring hardships.
Following the death of his second wife, Sarah, a house fire that destroyed many of his family’s possessions, and a long delay in a vital translation project, Judson wrote to a fellow missionary who had suffered similarly: “I have recommenced the work of the dictionary, which has been suspended nearly two years. Why has this grievous interruption been permitted, and all this precious time lost? And why are our houses and property allowed to be burned up? And why are those most dear to us, and most qualified to be useful in the [missionary] cause, torn from our arms, and dashed into the grave, and all their knowledge and qualification with them? Because infinite wisdom and love will have it so. Because it is best for us, and best for them, and best for the cause, and best for the interests of eternity, that it should be so. And blessed be God, we know it, and are thankful, and rejoice, and say, Glory be to God.”
Near the end of his ministry, missionary support from America suddenly faltered, forcing Judson to abandon plans to return to the capitol of Burma where he hoped to further advance the Gospel. Instead, he needed to retreat to a mission station where a number of other missionaries were already serving. At first Judson felt forsaken by supporters in the homeland and was deeply disappointed at these developments.
But his third wife, Emily, reported: “He very soon began to devise apologies for everybody, and said we must remember that so far as we were concerned, or the missionary cause itself, God had done this thing, and done it, as he always does, for good. It was not his will that we should go to Ava then, and we had no right to complain of the means he made use of to prevent it. He insisted, too, that our obedience was not to be yielded grudgingly; that it must be a cheerful acquiescence in all that God had done, and a sincere, careful study of the indications of his providence afterwards, without any suspicion that our ways were hedged by any thing harder or thornier than his love and mercy.”
Emily further testified of Judson: “His trust in Providence was so implicit and habitual, that he was never gloomy, and seldom more than momentarily disheartened. On the other hand, being accustomed to regard all the events of this life, however minute or painful, as ordered in wisdom, and tending to one great and glorious end, he lived in almost constant obedience to the apostolic injunction, ‘Rejoice evermore!’”
Many modern Western Christians do not handle adversity well. They are surprised by it and quick to doubt or even accuse God when He allows them to experience hardship.
Instead, like Judson, we should fully expect trials and should seek to willingly embrace adversity and sacrifice in our living for and serving the Lord. By readily trusting in God’s character and submitting to His will, we will be helped through the inevitable trials of life, others will be benefited by our example and Christ will be glorified.
I would enjoy hearing how Judson or other stalwart Christians have encouraged you to trust the Lord, even in hard times.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie