I was a young minister. Actually, I was a young minister, husband, and father. Not much experience in any phase of life. The one thing I knew with certainty is that I had a lot to learn.
One afternoon, a guy called my office saying that he wanted to come by and talk. He told me that a friend of his referred him to me. He said that he had never visited our congregation and that he was the general manager of a local restaurant. Hours later, that afternoon, I saw him wheel his new yellow corvette into our parking lot and get out. He was handsome and well dressed. I knew immediately that I did not like him.
I didn’t like him because of anything he did, but because I was dissatisfied with my life. We were barely getting by financially and had school loans to pay off. I was preaching for a small congregation and quite frankly felt sorry for myself. Now this guy, driving a new yellow Corvette, is well dressed, and in my mind must have it made.
He sat down in my office and began to cry. I was stunned. Again, I was so focused on my own self-pity that I wasn’t fully present with him. He then explained. HIs wife and young children were leaving him with plans to divorce him. He had been involved in affairs and made other mistakes. He said, “I would give up everything if I could just have them back.”
Over the next few years, I learned that churches are full of people who are having a difficult time with life. For many people, life is just hard. Now perhaps you have never gone through a chapter of life that is hard. I can assure you that many whom you are with every day find life to be hard.
Yet, on Sunday mornings, there is often silence regarding life being challenging as it is to so many. In fact, those who find life to be hard may look around on a Sunday morning or take a glance at Facebook and wonder if they are the only ones.
In the churches where I have preached, there have always been people who struggled with the following:
Addiction to some substance.
Having to deal with a difficult father, mother, ex-husband, problem child.
I could continue this list but you know what else might be on this list as well as I do. So often, what accompanies this is an intense loneliness. Some of us know this all too well.
Now for the good news:
- God will be present with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
- God’s presence in Christ is very real through his people. This means that just as Jesus is fully present in me, there is something very rich at work when I am fully present with another human being.
May God bless us and have mercy on us all.