The Painful Side of Ministry

My friend Ms. Mary's* funeral is today.  When her son told me she passed away, I felt like I had been punched in my stomach.  I was shocked.  I was in disbelief.  I was in pain.  As tears began to flow down my face, I recalled all the statements we as Christians say at this hard time.  "She's in a better place now."  "...to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord."  "She's rejoicing in glory now."  "She's gone to be with Jesus."  While I know these statements are true, it still hurts to lose someone you love.  Even though they are sick, you are hoping and wishing for a miracle.  You are anticipating your loved one sharing their great testimony one day about how God healed them from cancer.  You wait, you hope and you pray.  When it doesn't happens, you remember that going to heaven is the "ultimate" healing, but you wonder why God didn't heal them here on Earth.  You wonder why your prayers weren't enough.  You question, did I pray enough...did I pray right...did I lack faith?  The Bible says if someone is sick, let the elders of the church lay hands on them and they shall recover, right?  Did I not do something right?

I know the answer is no.  I know that there are some things in this life that we will never understand.  I know that God chooses to heal some on Earth and chooses to give others the "ultimate" healing.  I don't know why He chooses some and not others.  I don't know why He chose to take Ms. Mary home.  I do know one thing,  God is still good and He's still on the throne.  He is still healing, delivering, and setting the captives free.  I know that He is still able to heal anyone of any sickness or disease.  I've also come to know that grief and lamenting is a part of life.

When you love someone, it is only natural to grieve when they pass away.  If they are your brother or sister in Christ, it touches a special place in your heart.  When you pray together, worship together, bear one another's burden...your soul aches when they are in pain and when they pass away.  I saw Ms. Mary every Wednesday for about a year or so.  She would often beat me to bible study.  She always had an encouraging word.  She always had a praise report.  She was always in tune with the things of God.  I remember one day I was teaching and in the middle of teaching, I had a private moment with the Lord.  I believe everyone else was just puzzled, but after service she said, "the Lord touched you didn't He."  She was right, He did, and so did she.  She was a godly witness.  She was a ray of sunshine during my week and I know she has now joined the "great cloud of witnesses." 

Why the pain?  It's painful to see a loved one sick.  It is painful and challenging to hold their hand when the doctors give them a death sentence.  It's painful to watch someone you have walked with go from serving in ministry to serving time in jail.  It is gut-wrenching to pray for someone through a glass window, a gate, or between bars.  It pierces your heart when you have to search for words of hope for those who feel hopeless.  How do you speak life when someone has a life sentence?  How do you continue to speak deliverance, when the one you love keeps going back to the drug house?  How do you impart love to the homeless person you met on the street for 5 minutes?

I know I'm sappy, but it's hard.  It's painful.  It feels overwhelming at times; however, I'm left with the hope of Jesus.  I know that in my weakness He is strong.  I know that when my words fail, He always has a word of comfort.  I know that there is nothing in me, but I am a vessel God can use to touch the lives of His people.  I know that even though I may fail, He never fails.  I know that when I'm overwhelmed, He's always in control.  I know that even though loved ones pass away, He is still able to heal.  I know that even though drugs continue to knock on the doors of the people I love, God is able to shut doors that no man can open.  I know that He can do exceedingly, abundantly, above all I can ever ask or think.  I know that I can trust Him and one day I will meet Him face to face.  I will be reunited with the saints that have gone before me.  Until then, I will sing the song of the old saints, "One day I will understand it better, by and by."

*Name has been changed to protect the identity.

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