“Coastlands listen to me; distant people pay attention. The Lord called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb…And now, says the Lord, who formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him so that Israel might be gathered to Him; for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God is my strength“ Isaiah 49:1,5 Christian Standard Bible
Let’s face it, there are those days when everything just hurts no matter how much we may have looked forward to the promise that day has for us.
My birthday was just over a week ago and the closer I get to that magical age I am amazed at how young the number 60 appears to me! Suffice it to say I’m not quite there yet, however, it is nipping at my heels! I only mention this because of the changes which have occurred in my life, my wife’s family, and some friends who are facing a pain I hope I never have to experience.
Last Friday my wife’s parents lost their home of nearly 50 years and belongings to a fire. Joni and I experienced the loss of our home to fire in 2004. We have been dealing with flashbacks and the emotions those memories bring into our consciousness. It has added to the challenges Joni faces as she walks through the process of being there to help meet the needs of her family. Until you experience this type of loss it is impossible to convey the feelings that assail you, those reawakened when you see others face a similar loss.
As we find ourselves inundated with memories, we also want and need to continue to live and be who God has planned for us. Even as so many are rushing to meet the physical needs of Joni’s parents, sister (a co-owner of the home), and nephew there remains the pain none can see. It is the pain hidden by the brave faces each of us wears as we try to make sense out of events which may never make sense to us! It just hurts.
It’s not easy when facing the pain of loss and suffering. We have friends who are facing the pain of the last option for a very sick granddaughter. They are desperately longing for one last hope, to have that miracle so many have been praying God will accomplish. As I said, some days it just hurts!
I know of no one who has not suffered through some tragedy, some loss, whether the incredibly numbing pain of losing someone we love to death, or those losses that at times feel almost worse than death. So many are now struggling with “It Just Hurts” as they look to God for some relief, an answer, or for that miracle we are sure will heal and fix everything. Truth dictates that as long as we live in this world of the broken, broken things are going to happen.
It has been said the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I would add to the list the suffering that challenges the human spirit to it’s breaking point. The answer? Only God knows and He tells us we will have to endure the pain of this world until He comes and makes the final reconciliation. Until then we persevere, knowing we never do so alone no matter how difficult our losses. I am able to say this as one who has suffered what at times felt impossible to bear or carry.
There is another group suffering the pain of loss. They are fellow pastors or potential pastors whose only disqualification has nothing to do with their theology. It is in the one thing beyond their control; they are made of no value simply because of their gender. And while we have heard little or nothing of their pain as they felt their hopes come crashing down on their heads, we have heard an awful amount of the messages being sent to them. It just hurts.
God is not about causing pain for the sake of watching His creations as they struggle to make sense out of the circumstances they experience. Rather, God seeks to bring healing, peace, and the understanding that what is experienced in the challenging situations which often bring unspeakable pain are things He longs to heal. One constant is the fact that Jesus conquered eternal death and provided for us through all eternity the knowledge of the truth that we will one day be free from the evil that pierces our souls!
There are no words to alleviate the pain someone is experiencing, but the Ministry of Presence can be a comfort that is so desperately needed. I learned this as a Sheriff’s Chaplain. A Coroner once commented to me, “When I see the Chaplain walk on the scene I find myself releasing the tension of being on scene, it is the Ministry of Presence that makes that difference.”
Remember, Job’s friends did just fine until they began to talk! The Ministry of Presence is one which most often doesn’t need words as the actions definitely speak louder than any words ever could! The message God sends from the verses shared above is He is actively seeking us out, just as He did Adam and Eve. You and I have the privilege of not only being the sought but also becoming seekers sent by the Seeker!
Our world knows pain and suffering. We can be instruments, the tools God needs as He seeks to bring comfort to those who know the pain and suffering of living in this broken world as the broken. God loves us more than we can know or even take in. I hope this hope is and will be yours as I endeavor for it to be mine!
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen. – Francis of Assisi