UPDATE: The following post was NOT emailed to me by Donald N. Norris, but Dave Peever. Thankfully, this is the only mistake I have made today 😉
So, please check out Dave’s blog, Live 4 Him. I’m sure you will be blessed there, also.
Guest Post by: Dave Peever
I Have Nothing to Offer
It hurts and it should. It may be my hurt or it may be someone else’s hurt that I observe, but it hurts, and it should. Still, we try to avoid it or at least address it as quickly as possible and move on. Logic does not play into it or at least cannot be used to lessen the impact. The passage of time may help but when everything seems to be going by so slow, the future is not even in the mix of thought and emotion. We wish it never happened, we hope we can somehow forget, but we know that it’s not going away. Like a rotten tooth that needs to be pulled or a wound that must be reopened and cleaned, it must be dealt with or the long-term issues will far outweigh the short term pain. It hurts and it should.
You’re a pastor, you should know what to say, how to bring comfort, how to rise above the pain.
I often wonder how people see me and others who have been called to pastoral ministry. When we are in the pulpit we are in control or at least appear that way. We tackle the tough issues head-on with Bible verses pre-selected and marked, script written and rehearsed. Everyone’s attention (we hope) is focused on us with little else competing for space in people’s thought process. We are in charge with little question about who is there to give out the answers to life’s problems. Before I go further, there are many times I haven’t felt in control in the pulpit, but by its very nature preaching creates the appearance of having it all together. Then comes the hospital visit, the funeral preparation family meeting, the pregnant unwed mother discussion, the abused wife’s plea for help or the drug or porn addiction revelation and people expect that same sermon preaching confidence. It is as if there are magic words that will make it all better and somehow the pastor is supposed to have them all stored up in his brain, ready to use at the appropriate time.
God’s word is full of comfort but God’s design does not allow us to avoid pain.
Biblical words of comfort are not the recipe for griefless living. To love someone is to invite pain into your life no matter how much they love you back. At some point something will happen that will hurt you. It isn’t always between the people in the relationship, but it is always felt by the people in the relationship. If we truly love the other person, their pain becomes our pain even if we are not directly affected. The only way to live life pain free is to ignore the Bible and never love anyone.
By calling and vocation, a pastor is placed in the middle of pain. By calling and obedience, a pastor experiences pain just like anyone who loves as Christ loves. Pastors may have a responsibility to the congregation defined in their job description but all Christ followers have an obligation to love and therefore are exposed to pain. The comfort we have and the comfort we offer is not found in the removal of hurt, pain and grief because we know the right words to say but instead it is found in the sharing of life as it happens.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 (NIV)
You may say that you have nothing to offer because you are not a pastor, but the truth is, even though I am a pastor, we both have the same thing to offer.
I hate hospital visits as much as the next guy. I want to avoid the tears of a grieving family just like most people do. If I could miss funerals, including my own, I would. To seek out pain, physical or emotional, is not the sign of a stable person, to enjoy the depths of despair is not normal behavior. I understand that people want a pastor to be with them in their time of need and I accept that as part of my job. I may not like feeling that I can’t make the pain go away, that I am not in control and have nothing to offer, but I accept that just being there brings a level of comfort.
What I have to offer is the same as you. We all need to live out Romans 12:15 because we all, if we love like Jesus, have something to offer. Love has a cost, a price to pay. Sometimes we get to rejoice together other times we share pain but all the time we need to be there for each other. God does not leave or abandon those He loves but stays with us in part through the people He surrounds us with in our time of need. Be there for others, you can’t fix it, you can’t make it go away, that’s not the way God designed us, but you can share in the pain, help carry the burden, you have something to offer.