Yep! Spiritual warfare is definitely a part of the story--a big part. And it is helpful to have what you have documented here all in one place. Even more could be added. Jack, one of my neighbors was beginning to come out of his separatist shell and begin to care for the neighborhood. Then he died. Tim and his parents were beginning to warm up both to me and my son and then it just seemed to disapate into almost nothing. At one time there was a very godly and evangelical pastor living down the street from me on my block. But he moved to take care of his ailing mother the year we moved in. And don't forget the spirtual interest that seemed to be there and gone in the life of your spouse's brother and in-law.
In many ways, our neighborhoods are like the parable of soils in living color (Mark 4). Some seed has been stolen away, some seed seemed to take root only to disappear when the going got tougher, other seed looked very promising but other desires choked it. And some seed has produced at different rates.
But there are victories too. For the first couple of years after we moved into our presnet house, my wife and I felt like lone rangers for the gospel. Then God moved in one, then two, then three Christian families. We prayed and God answered. Then we prayed and God brought one of the newer familes on our block to faith before we even knew their names. Over the years, I'll bet my neighbors, Christian and non-Christian, have called me virtually every name in the book behind their doors. But God is still moving people towards himself. Even though sometimes I wish he would move faster.
Yes, reaching out is hard. Being spit upon by the people you came to save, being mocked by the people you came to teach, being persecuted by the people you came to offer forgiveness was hard for Jesus too. But, love continued to motivate him to the sacrifice even through tears (Jn. 11:35). And we want to be like him. We want to learn how to live passionately for and like Jesus. All this is to say, Hang in there! Keep working at developing holiness, becoming more like Jesus everyday, in the way you pursue God and love your spouse and and children. We've read the end of the story, the book of Revelation, and God wins, we win with Him. And everything that we have endured as a result of pursuing faithfulness to Jesus will have been worth it and will be rewarded.
God, in my experience gives reprieves from the daily grind eventually. I don't know when that will be. Personally, I'm in the middle of one right now that is a pure gut-check time. My heart is burdened with a weight that is eating at my spirit. So where do I run for hope and strength to carry on when the weight is bending my back to the ground? I run to three truths:
- My God loves me. Romans 5:8, Romans 8. I keep reminding myself of the rock solid truth of the gospel.
- My wife believes in me. This is a a confidence builder when all my other props are pulled out from under me.
- My kids are proud of me. There is much that can be endured when the members of one's first and primary "church family" look with love and pride at their leader.
Here's something else to hang on to: Your pastor is praying for you, that you will not falter, retreat, or give up. Here's something even better: So is Jesus.