I’m fascinated by Arnold Dallimore, author of an important two-volume biography of George Whitefield among other works. D.A. Carson says of his biography of Whitefield: “Few books make me weep, but on occasion that biography did. For all its technical competence and heavy documentation, it made me pray, more than once, Oh, God, do it again!”
Dallimore was, according to his granddaughter, a small man with a big voice. He’s known for the books he wrote, but he also pastored a small church in Cottam, Ontario for forty years.
Dallimore experienced hardship in ministry. He was once so beat up by ministry that he completely disappeared for months. Not even his wife knew where he went.
In the mid-1940s, Dallimore became pastor of Briscoe Street Baptist Church in London, Ontario. It was known as a pastor-killing church. Dallimore himself called it “a ministerial graveyard, as ministers remained but a year.” Dallimore did better: he lasted thirteen months. It didn’t kill him, but it drove him into depression. He took a three-year break from ministry, and supported himself by buying and renovating houses. Things were so bad that they started selling their wedding gifts in order to buy groceries.
During this time, Dallimore disappeared for three months to New York State on doctor’s orders. His wife has no idea where he went or what he did, only that he seemed much better when he returned home.
Ministry hard. We may not go through the same hardships as Dallimore, but anyone who serves God can expect to suffer. Not only will we go through the normal difficulties that everyone faces, but we’ll also experience the difficulties that only come with ministry.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote to Timothy. After describing the suffering that’s part of ministry, Paul instructs Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:3,7). We’re not just supposed to expect suffering as part of ministry, but we’re to think carefully about it and prepare for it.
Serve God for any amount of time, and you’ll experience opposition, conflict, unpredictable results, and more. Suffering is a part of ministry.
It’s Worth It
When we suffer in ministry, though, we can know it’s worth it. Paul writes, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). I love George Guthrie’s translation: “For our momentary, light bundle of affliction produces for us—in a way both breathtaking and immeasurable—an eternal tonnage of glory.”
Our problems now seem long and heavy. From eternity’s perspective, they’re momentary and light, far outweighed by the glory that will last forever. We gain a weight of glory through a relatively insignificant amount of suffering by comparison. It staggers Paul, and causes him to not lose heart even when ministry is hard (2 Corinthians 4:1).
Our sufferings in ministry make a lot more sense from the perspective of the eternal. They will soon be over. In the meantime, God is using our sufferings to produce a disproportionate weight of glory that will last for all of eternity.
Never think that God isn’t at work in your suffering. It may not seem like it now, but eternity will show that it was worth it.