Samuel Zwemer was one of America’s early missionaries to the Arabs. In the 1890's he went to Bahrein and served among Muslims. As you can imagine the going was tough. Muslims are extremely difficult to reach. In forty years of ministry, in fact, Zwemer probably reached less than one dozen converts.
And the personal cost was enormous. The climate was terrible. Temperatures on the coolest part of their veranda regularly soared to 107. In 1904 both of his daughters at the ages of 4 and 7 died within eight days of one another. And yet, fifty years later, Zwemer looked back on this time of his life and wrote: “The sheer joy of it all comes back. Gladly would I do it all over again.”
How could he say that? To work for forty years for less than 12 converts while sacrificing your two precious little girls. How could he call that joy? I’ll tell you how: It’s because of the fifty years. Hear me! I guarantee you that Zwemer wasn’t ecstatic about all the pain he experienced . . . especially when he was going through it---No one would be. But he, through believing God and enduring the discipline of suffering learned that God was sufficient to take him through anything. And he learned that joy isn’t an emotion that flows from your circumstances, it is a confidence that builds through God’s discipline. It comes at the end of a process, a process that must utilize the tool of suffering; a process that must follow the pathway of discipline; but a process, when it is complete that, out of growth, brings joy.