John Piper expresses it so well – we live in an age of emotionally fragile people. He writes…
I have found – in my pastoral disappointments, discouragements there is a great power for perseverance in keeping before me life of men who surmounted great obstacles in obedience to God’s call by the power of God’s grace. I need very much this inspiration from another age, because I know that I am, in great measure, a child of my times.
One of pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. It is in air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.
A typical emotional response to trouble in the church is to think, “If that’s the way they feel about me, then they can find themselves another pastor.” We see very few models today whose lives spell out in flesh and blood the rugged words, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials” (James 1:3).
When historians list the character traits of the last third of twentieth century America, commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve and perseverance will not be on the list. The list will begin with an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. It will be followed by the subheadings of self-assertiveness, and self-enhancement, and self-realization. And if you think that you are not at all a child of your times just test yourself to see how you respond in the ministry when people reject your ideas.
We need help here. When you are surrounded by a society of emotionally fragile quitters, and when you see a good bit of this ethos in yourself, you need to spend time with people – whether dead of alive – whose lives prove there is another way to live. Scripture says, “Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
I would agree with Piper – one way to develop emotional toughness is by reading biographies of Christians through the ages whom God has used.
Where to start? Here’s a fairly easy-to-read beginning place:
To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (bio of Adoniram Judson, first American Missionary, to Burma)
The God I Love, by Joni Eareckson (her story)
Born Again, by Chuck Colson