John 16 (The Message)
"I've told you all this so that trusting me,
you will be unshakable and assured,
deeply at peace.
In this godless world
you will continue to experience difficulties.
But take heart!
I've conquered the world."
With all of the ministry challenges that have been ever present that last few years, it is easy for me to focus on me and my reactions, my experiences with the problems. People are in pain, and then somehow they end up talking with a pastor; but the suffering seems so complicated, intertwined like cancerous tentacles into their soul and heart; they hurt because of their habits and patterns in life, as well as bearing the consequences of their environmnet. And as marriages crumble, as faith dissapates, as love sours, as children wander, as culture pollutes...and as I feel it in my soul, bothered and disturbed...what do I do with it?
For awhile I focused on good listening skills, hoping that if I heard right, I could direct them more rightly. Then I focused on speaking rightly, if I spoke the cultural language more skillfully, then they would hear more correctly the remedy, and then act on it. I tried studying up on all sorts of sciences, thinking that if I increased my knowledge base, I'd be more helpful. And there are other tactics; and I don't think that I should draw the conclusion that my efforts have been in vain, that they were misguided, or steeped in misunderstanding. My observation has been, though, that I've let my soul absorb the suffering of my friends and let it shake the foundations of my faith. Which, if that is the case, I seriously minimize my ability to direct them to God. This is what has been slowly been unveiled to me through my experiences: people don't need me to suffer alongside them, they need me to trust Jesus as I suffer with them, trusting Jesus and letting him produce in me, and thus in them, a steadfastness, an assurance, a deep shalom.
What can I do when the people I care about continue to experience more and more heart-ache? Trust Jesus more, trust his words about truth and reality, and trust his way of dealing with a godless world and God-seekers in this world. Continue to incorporate the best of the sciences and technology in fostering healing, but seek first God's Way in this world, his Right Way in bringing shalom to shattered lives. Trust God with their problems, because that's what I want them to do: Trust God in Jesus with their problems.
Duh...how do I forget this stuff?
Father In Heaven,
May the people in my life,
and the people in their life,
Seek Forgiveness of their Sins from You,
and may they forgive those that have sinned against them.
May they receive your generous grace and steadfast strength from Jesus,
and May they follow the everyday promptings of the Spirit.
May the people in my life choose to Trust Jesus more often,
May they Listen to His Words and Follow His Way;
thus may they then act righteously towards those who wrong them,
may they let you restore their heart and redeem their soul from the sins of their fathers.