Dealing with the Dark Clouds in Ministry


When Hudson Taylor wrote this letter to his mother on March 13th in 1869, he wasn’t exaggerating about the thick clouds of discouragement. The past few months had been staggeringly painful: Taylor finally had to dismiss one of his missionaries. The man had been spreading lies about Taylor, refusing to follow many of the basic principles of the mission and just causing grief for years. Several other missionaries left the mission with this man. Taylor and his team, including his wife and children, had almost lost their lives in a violent attack by a mob. They were all seriously injured, lost everything they owned and barely escaped alive. The British government, looking for a chance to reassert their dominance in China, overreacted to this incident and sailed gunboats up the river to the town where this happened to force concessions. When it became clear that the British were over reaching in their demands, the press in China and in Britain blamed Taylor. It had been a hard year. But check out Hudson Taylor’s letter home in the middle of all this (emphases are all his):

Often have I asked you to remember me in prayer and when I have done so there hudson taylorhas been much need of it. That need has never been greater than at the present time. Envied by some, despised by many, hated, perhaps, by others; often blamed for things I never heard of, or had anything to do with; an innovator on what have become established rules of missionary practice; an opponent of mighty systems of heathen error and superstition; working without precedent in many respects, and with few experienced helpers; often sick in body, as well as perplexed in mind, and embarrassed by circumstances; had not the Lord been specially gracious to me, had not my mind been sustained by the conviction that the work was the Lord’s, and that He was with me in–what it is no empty figure to call– the thick of the conflict–I must have fainted and broken down. But the battle is the Lord’s. And He will conquer. We may fail, do fail continually; but He never fails. . .

My own position becomes more and more responsible, and the need of special grace to fill it greater, but I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master. I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation; I never knew how bad a heart I had. Yet I do know that I love God and love His work, and desire to serve Him only and in all things. . .

Never were there more thick clouds about us than this moment; but never was there more encouragement than at the present time. Nay, might I not say that the very dis-couragements are themselves en-encouragements?(A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor & China’s Open Century: Refiner’s Fire, p.174-175)

Basically, to sum up Taylor:

            1. We need to pray more. (Not just talk about praying more, but spend large chunks of quality time talking to God.)

            2. Ministry is hard, really hard. (Like write-your-mom-a-letter, not-sure-you-can-keep-going hard.)

            3. I need to constantly remind myself that its always, ultimately God’s work that I’m involved in. (So its fine when my plans and dreams don’t happen.)

            4. Trials in ministry reveal my own sinful heart and weak walk with God. (That’s one reason we rejoice in trials because they’re making us more like Jesus.)

            5. The good sovereignty of God means that problems are just another sign that God is working. (Isn’t ministry pretty much always “the best of times” and “the worst of times” at the same time?)

China or the U.S., 1869 or 2014–ministry hasn’t changed that much. “We may fail, do fail continually; but He never fails.”


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