Life is hard. Things don’t always go your way. People stop believing in you. They don’t think you have what it takes. They push you aside. They force you out. Circumstances outside anyone’s control derail your direction. You’re disappointed. Disillusioned. Discouraged.
When it happens, it stinks.
What do you do?
You have three choices:
- Get Mad
- Give Up
- Grow Up
This is true in ministry: You will face critique. The burdens get heavy.
I was thinking about this as I was thinking about Mark in the Bible. Mark was a pretty legit first century Christian leader.
- He wrote a Gospel.
- He seems to have been Peter’s right hand person.
- He was apparently Barnabas’ cousin.
- He travelled with Paul and Barnabas some.
But before he wrote his Gospel, he was faced with the choice to get mad, give up, or grow up. In Acts 13, he leaves the mission field. We don’t know why, but we know it cost him serious credibility with Paul. In Acts 15 Paul refuses to take him on a subsequent journey. Barnabas advocated for him, but he was his cousin, after all. Paul didn’t want him around. This turned into a sharp division, a parting of ways. Mark got the old relational/professional stiff arm from Paul.
I wonder what that was like for Mark.
I’m assuming a few things here, for sure, but I bet it was disillusioning. I would wager it was depressing. I totally could understand if he had to take a few days to gather his emotions. His pride took a hit. He probably questioned his identity. I would imagine he spent a little bit of time debating whether or not he should give up and just hang up the ministry shoes. I wonder if he talked trash about Paul behind his back? Did he cuss a little or throw stuff? Did he go vent to his buddies? He had those choices available to him, the same ones we have:
- Get mad.
- Give up.
- Grow up.
What do you do when you face this kind of crossroads? A lot of people quit. They stop caring. They check out. They decide that everyone else is the problem and that there is no work on their part to be accomplished. They conclude that it’s not worth the trouble. They fill their lives with shallow activity that distracts in lieu of risking emotional pain to do the harder thing, which is not to give up. Anger is an easier emotion to feel than pain.
It’s easy to get mad.
It’s easy to give up.
The harder things is to grow up.
We all have that choice, too. When we feel rejected, or face pain, or don’t get picked, or struggle, we don’t have to give up. We don’t have to bury our rejection under a hot layer of anger. We don’t have to point he finger at everyone else. We can grow up. We can welcome the tension and pain, realizing it’s a catalyst for growth. We can double down on our focus. We can refuse to capitulate to the status quo; forbid ourselves from embracing mediocrity.
We can trust Jesus in new ways.
Mark seems to have done this. It’s difficult, even in the vast history of the New Testament documents, to really sketch a certain biography of his life between when he’s rejected from the journey with Paul in Acts 13 and when we hear of him next. Is this rejection what gave him time and space to compose his Gospel? What else did he do? We can’t be sure.
But there he is in 2 Timothy–one of Paul’s last letters, if not the last. A couple decades have passed. Paul asks after Mark, requesting Timothy bring him along. He says he’s “useful to him.” He wasn’t “useful” to him in Acts 13, but now he is. Why? This might be too simple of an answer, but I think I know.
It’s because he didn’t get mad. He didn’t give up.
He’d grown up, and it made a difference.
Rejection stings. If you’re in ministry long, you will be disappointed. But you have a choice.
Get mad, give up, or grow up.