Activated - - NEWS - By Maria Fon­taine, adapted

Do you some­times feel like a fail­ure? Things haven't turned out the way you thought they should have or the way you wanted? Your ex­pec­ta­tions have been dis­ap­pointed, your goals haven't been reached?

Well, let me tell you about a man who felt like a fail­ure.

He was sickly, of­ten de­pressed to the point of want­ing to give up on life com­pletely. Both of his par­ents had died by the time he was 14. He was ex­pelled from col­lege, which meant that his dreams of higher ed­u­ca­tion and his goal of be­ing a min­is­ter were out of the ques­tion. He strug­gled with lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion. He bat­tled with fear of death. He died at a young age in poverty af­ter se­vere ill­ness, with what seemed like few ac­com­plish­ments to his name.

He was a fail­ure in his own eyes and in the eyes of many oth­ers at the time. Yet his story has in­spired many mis­sion­ar­ies and work­ers for God, both past and present. His con­verts went on to wit­ness to oth­ers, and his mis­sion­ary work in­flu­enced many. Gen­er­a­tions of Chris­tians have been in­spired through his prayer jour­nal.

He died not know­ing if he had ac­com­plished any­thing, ex­cept for gain­ing a hand­ful of con­verts. His life was only dis­tin­guished af­ter his death.

It was his life's strug­gles on this earth—his so-called fail­ures—in the form of his doubts and de­pres­sion, his an­guish of spirit, that helped many other mis­sion­ar­ies and en­cour­aged and strength­ened them in their mis­sions.

Was it truly fail­ure? Or did God want to use his life as a can­dle— how­ever small the light and how­ever briefly it would shine be­fore be­ing ex­tin­guished—to bring il­lu­mi­na­tion and en­cour­age­ment to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of work­ers for God?

Did God make a mis­take? Is it pos­si­ble to look like a fail­ure and still be a suc­cess in God's eyes?

His name was David Brain­erd. Here's a brief overview of his life, which I've com­piled and con­densed from sev­eral books and on­line sources: David Brain­erd, mis­sion­ary to the North Amer­i­can In­di­ans. Born April 20, 1718.

By the age of 21, he had re­ceived Je­sus as his Sav­ior and de­ter­mined to be a wit­ness. In Septem­ber of 1739, he en­rolled at Yale Col­lege. It was a time of tran­si­tion at Yale. When he first en­tered the school, he was dis­tressed by the re­li­gious in­dif­fer­ence he saw around him, but the im­pact of evan­ge­list Ge­orge White­field and the Great Awak­en­ing soon made its mark. Prayer and Bi­ble study groups sprang up overnight—usu­ally to the dis­plea­sure of school au­thor­i­ties who were fear­ful of re­li­gious “en­thu­si­asm.” It was in this at­mos­phere that young

Brain­erd made an in­tem­per­ate re­mark about one of the tu­tors, com­ment­ing that he had “no more grace than a chair,” judg­ing him to be a hyp­ocrite. The re­mark was car­ried back to the school of­fi­cials, and David was ex­pelled af­ter he re­fused to make a pub­lic apol­ogy for what he had said in pri­vate.

Brain­erd per­sisted in his ef­forts to spread the gospel, even though, by al­most ev­ery stan­dard known to mis­sion­ary boards, he was con­sid­ered a risky can­di­date for mis­sions. He had by his own de­scrip­tion a melan­choly dis­po­si­tion. He was phys­i­cally weak, ex­pe­ri­enced fre­quent bouts of ill­ness and de­pres­sion, and had to take fre­quent fur­loughs.

In 1742, he ob­tained a com­mis­sion as a mis­sion­ary among the Na­tive Amer­i­cans. His first year of mis­sion­ary ac­tiv­i­ties wasn't par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful. He couldn't speak the lan­guage of the na­tives, nor was he pre­pared for the dif­fi­cul­ties of life in the wilder­ness. He was lonely and deeply sad. He wrote:

“My heart was sunk. ... It seemed to me I should never have any suc­cess among the In­di­ans. My soul was weary of my life; I longed for death, be­yond mea­sure.

“I live in the most lonely melan­choly desert. ... My diet con­sists mostly of hasty-pud­ding [ground-up grain mush], boiled corn, and bread baked in ashes. … My lodg­ing is a lit­tle heap of straw laid upon some boards. My work is ex­ceed­ing hard and dif­fi­cult.”

His first win­ter in the wilder­ness was filled with hard­ship and sick­ness. His sec­ond year of mis­sion­ary ser­vice he con­sid­ered a to­tal loss, and his hopes of evan­ge­liz­ing the In­di­ans faded. He se­ri­ously con­sid­ered giv­ing up his work.

His third year, he moved to a dif­fer­ent area and there his meet­ings be­gan to at­tract as many as sev­enty Na­tive Amer­i­cans at a time, some of them trav­el­ing 40 miles to hear the mes­sage of sal­va­tion. There was a re­li­gious awak­en­ing, and af­ter a year and a half, the trav­el­ing preacher had about 150 con­verts, some of whom went on to wit­ness to oth­ers.

Brain­erd's first jour­ney to one fe­ro­cious tribe re­sulted in a mir­a­cle that left him revered among the na­tives as a “prophet of God.” En­camped on the out­skirts of the na­tive set­tle­ment, Brain­erd planned to en­ter the com­mu­nity the next morn­ing to preach. Un­known to him, his ev­ery move

was be­ing watched by war­riors who had been sent out to kill him. F. W. Bore­ham recorded the in­ci­dent:

When the braves drew closer to Brain­erd's tent, they saw the pale­face on his knees. And as he prayed, sud­denly a rat­tlesnake slipped to his side, lifted up its ugly head to strike, flicked its forked tongue al­most in his face, and then with­out any ap­par­ent rea­son, glided swiftly away into the brush­wood. “The Great Spirit is with the pale­face!” the In­di­ans said; and thus they ac­corded him a prophet's wel­come.

That in­ci­dent in Brain­erd's min­istry il­lus­trates more than the many divine in­ter­ven­tions of God in his life—it also il­lus­trates the im­por­tance and in­ten­sity of prayer in his life. On page af­ter page in Life and Diary of David Brain­erd, one reads such sen­tences as:

“God again en­abled me to wres­tle for num­bers of souls, and had much fer­vency in the sweet duty of in­ter­ces­sion.”

“Spent much time in prayer in the woods and seemed raised above the things of this world.”

“Spent this day in se­cret fast­ing, and prayer, from morn­ing till night.”

“It was rain­ing and the roads were muddy; but this de­sire grew so strong that I kneeled down by the side of the road and told God all about it. While I was pray­ing, I told Him that my hands would work for Him, my tongue speak for Him, if He would only use me as His in­stru­ment— when sud­denly the dark­ness of the night lit up, and I knew that God had heard and an­swered my prayer.”

“In the si­lences I make in the midst of the tur­moil of life, I have ap­point­ments with God. From th­ese si­lences, I come forth with spirit re­freshed, and with a re­newed sense of power. I hear a voice in the si­lences, and be­come in­creas­ingly aware that it is the voice of God.”

Af­ter all the hard­ships Brain­erd had en­dured, his health was bro­ken. He died at the age of 29 on Oc­to­ber 9, 1747. His self­less de­vo­tion, zeal, and life of prayer in­spired other mis­sion­ar­ies, like Henry Mar­tyn, Wil­liam Carey, Jonathan Ed­wards, Adoniram Jud­son, and John Wes­ley. His in­flu­ence af­ter his death was greater than any re­sults achieved dur­ing his life­time. His jour­nal be­came a clas­sic that has in­spired many to en­gage in mis­sion­ary ser­vice. His in­flu­ence is proof that God can and will use any ves­sel that is will­ing to be a tool in His hands, no mat­ter how frag­ile and frail.

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