A longtime pastor reminds us of the simple truths of ministering to others during difficult seasons.
During my 22 years of pastoring a great church in a community with diverse needs, I have seen much. I have experienced great and exciting celebrations, and I have also experienced some difficult and challenging times.
Ministering to those who are battling a tough season of life is not easy.
One of the most important principles I have learned is to be sensitive and be a good listener to the parties involved.
It is sometimes best not to say anything at all. Your presence often means much more than your well-meaning words of comfort. You may not know all the details, but when you are with someone who is hurting, you are there to bring encouragement and hope. The primary purpose of ministering during these difficult times is to give assurance that Jesus indeed cares and understands our situations.
I have relied heavily on the Word of God to help me minister to those who are going through challenging times. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” A strong prayer life and reliance on the Scriptures have been my hallmarks in ministering to the hurting.
I remember one such time in particular. It was September 2017, and a good friend of mine had suddenly passed away at just 50 years of age. It was devastating for his family and for the church family. He left behind his wife and a teenage child, along with countless friends. His passing was a shock to many and we are, in many ways, still feeling the pain of losing him.
During the holiday season, the pain was even greater. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him was unbearably tough. The family was in deep pain. One day, I had a voicemail on my office phone telling me to call the grieving family. I immediately started praying, asking God to give me words that would bring some encouragement to this family that was going through a very difficult time.
I wanted to do something to extend support and comfort, but I did not know what to say or do.
I did know, however, that this family should not have to navigate the treacherous waters of grief by themselves. After I finished praying, I decided I would return the call. I listened carefully, I heard the sobbing, and I felt the pain that this family was expressing. Tears came to my eyes. I was trying to hold it together and thanked God for helping me get through it.
I started sharing from God’s Word, specifically Psalm 23:6: “Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me [you] all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home” (TLB). While I may not have been able to take their pain away, I was able to offer the gift of my presence and the calming assurance of God’s promises to be with us.
God cares for every detail of our lives and He is always in control—even in the difficult seasons.
David Solomon is senior pastor of Community Church of the Nazarene in Wyandanch, New York, USA.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2018