For the most part, from what I’ve noticed, these are two topics are generally discussed together. The power of God’s love, and the suffering and brokenness of the world. Indeed, I feel like the two topics are not discussed hand in hand when they should be. At times, we rejoice about God’s amazing love, and at other times we mourn about the brokenness and the evil that is in the world. I personally believe that the two topics should actually always be discussed together because they really are related. Why? Because in the midst of the brokenness, in the midst of the pain and in the midst of suffering, as Christians, we know that God loves us and desires to redeem us, and that gives us hope.
The question that I was pondering was this: “What is the role of a person who is suffering in ministry?” I believe that the bible quite clearly states that we are ALL called to ministry, but what does that look like in the life of someone who can barely go outside, much less minister outside? Maybe they’re sick or too weak, or maybe they have a broken arm. Maybe they can’t use their legs and rely on the support of their family and friends and a wheelchair. What does ministry look like for them? Before going on with that, I had to ask myself the question: What does suffering look like in the context of being Christian? Now, to be fair, I must admit that I myself have not suffered through chronic illnesses or any life threatening illness. But I have suffered some of the consequences of living in a broken world and am trying to extrapolate upon those pains to do my best and understand what someone who is suffering through a chronic illness might be going through. I am also leaning on some of the things that I’ve heard from my friends who have suffered through painful events.
“What does suffering look like in the context of being Christian?”
As a Christian, I believe that there is something wrong with the world, that the world isn’t perfect. But I also believe that one day, Christ will come and fix it. I believe that God has a plan to make things right. I also believe that God loves me, and that He will keep His promises to heal the land and redeem it. What this all spells out to me is one simple word: Hope. As a Christian, I have hope for the future that God has promised me, I have hope to one day see and experience the redemption that God has planned. So as a Christian, no matter how hard things get, I always have that hope for the future, the assurance that God loves me, and a community around me.
The other part of the equation is community. I know that I have brothers and sisters that will always be willing to support me should I need it. They will comfort me and talk to me when I’m down, they will assist me when I need assistance, and I will offer them the same. We will talk with one another to share the burden, so that the heavy load is not all on one shoulder. I am sure that I can depend on my Christian brothers and sisters when I need it, and I’m quite sure that they know that they can depend on me. It is amazing that as a Christian, I have a community that will not only celebrate with me during times of joy, but I also have a community that will mourn with me in times of suffering.
So that’s what I believe suffering looks like in the Christian context. During the rough times, I have hope due to God’s love and God’s assurance that He will one day make things right. I don’t believe that this lessens the pain, but instead, the hope will give me the strength to endure the pain and keep going. Next, I have a community that is willing to support and love me. I believe that suffering alone is a lot tougher than suffering together.
So returning to the original question, “What is the role of a person who is suffering in ministry?” I believe that it has a lot to do with God’s love. I believe that God’s love is infectious. I believe that the more that I experience God’s love, the more that I will want to share God’s love. I believe that God loves me, that God loves the person living across the street, that God loves the person sitting next to me in lecture, that God loves the people I pass as I walk down the sidewalk, and that God loves the broken and the hurting. The more that I experience God’s love, the more God’s love affects me and transforms me, and the more I love the people that God so dearly loves.
I believe that if you are hurting right now, or if you are sick right now, God’s heart aches for you and that He wants to show you His love. Then, if you have the hope that God has given us, and if you have experienced the love that God has for you, I believe that your heart will ache for others with a similar condition to yours who do not have the hope of Jesus Christ in their lives. I do not believe that God instilled the condition you have into you so that He could use you, but I do believe that if you have a condition then He will use it for His work. I believe that if you have a condition, then you also have a platform to reach other people with a similar condition and as a result help them find the hope and the love that our might God has to offer.
I don’t think that my insights are perfect, but these are some thoughts that I’ve been having and I wanted to share. Please comment if you have any issues or questions!