Posts Tagged suffering

The Advantages of the Suffering Servant

Psalm 133 1

If there’s anything that has made me crazy over the years of leading a “disability” ministry, it has been hearing time and time again, “Oh, I would help, but I’m just so busy.”  There’s no way to say this without seeming like a total jerk, so here goes.  Find someone in this day and age who isn’t busy!  Try to hold down the average responsibilities of a life with the added challenges of special needs piled on top of them!  If anyone would have an excuse to opt out, it would be the person who is always at doctor or therapy appointments, the one whose hands, feet or voice may not work properly, or the one who faces serious financial difficulties.  Yet, we all seem to find time for that which we deem a priority.  The excuse-maker’s “I’m too busy,” comes across to me as, “Your mission is not important to me.”  As I am crying out, “Lord of the harvest, send more workers,” these types of individuals are on yet another fluffy retreat, or at another relaxing party, or playing Candy Crush Saga online.

Whew!  Now that my nasty rant is over with, let me share with you what it looks like as I watch those families who are suffering, yet still serve.  Let me explain how God is using them powerfully as they make time for His priorities, rather than their own.  Allow me to describe for you how their service actually is a blessing to them, rather than an increased burden:

  • Suffering servants are on the cutting edge of current issues because they are in the thick of it.  Nothing can match the intense relief that comes from one who is walking the same journey as you are.  When people are willing to volunteer their time as they are going through intense situations in their own life, they know what current treatments are for different health issues, what the latest challenges are in the schools, how insurance companies are currently treating payment for given therapies, and so forth.  While there is definitely great value to having some space between our time of deepest suffering and our service to those undergoing the same, the further we move away from it, the more we seem to forget what that suffering was like.
  • Suffering servants find purpose in their pain by offering compassion to others.  If there’s one question we all tend to ask when we suffer, it is the circular question “Why?”.  As we reach out to another, despite our challenges, we discover the real-life, here-and-now truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)  We are blessed to be a blessing to another.
  • Suffering servants shrink their own problems by focusing on the troubles of another.  We have all heard the phrase, “It could always be worse.”  That truth becomes reality when we reach out to another person in trouble while we are in the midst of our own storms.  While we can get a chip on our shoulder sometimes, thinking, “I wish I had it as easy as them!”, the truth remains that few of us would exchange our crises or trials for our neighbor’s.  The size of our own troubles can suddenly diminish in size when we hold them up against the challenges of those who need our help.
  • Suffering servants live out the Christ-life as an example to all those around them.  When others see those who have a disability, illness or difficulty serving in spite of those things, they suddenly are without excuse.  Not that the goal is to shame others, but rather to show them what practical, relentless, Christ-like love looks like.  Our children learn the beauty of volunteerism when they watch us serve in spite of our own issues.  Neighbors, fellow church members, friends and others around us are inspired by watching our simple acts of kindness.  The ripple effect is quite transformational, especially in today’s self-absorbed culture.

Who wouldn’t want to be used by God in such ways!  I am so very grateful to say that the majority of our ministry’s most effective volunteers are those who are undergoing all sorts of challenges.  When we started this organization, I lived under the false impression that those were the ones that should only be served and not allowed to serve.  Over a decade of transformation, I incrementally learned how erroneous that thinking can be.  These volunteers inspire me, and are my encouragement to press on in faith every single day.


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A Jumping Off Point

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

If you are checking out the blog posts on this website, you more than likely share an interest, if not a passion, for ministry to those with unique abilities.  When we see the need to serve or include this population, there is an urge to call others into this ministry or to try to build such a ministry in our local church.  But where do we start?  What is our first step?

I’d like to suggest that before we dare jump into the “doing” of ministry, we first sit silently at the feet of the Lord, doing some listening and learning.  I’ve had the great fortune of discovering a newly published book because I know one of its contributing writers.  WHY, O GOD? Suffering and Disability in the Bible and Church is a fabulous jumping off point for every person looking to venture into the world of “disability ministry”.  There are so many questions to ask before going forward into this arena.  And because of the great need, you want to do this with excellence.  This new release helps those seeking to serve this population to even discover what those questions are!

Because our organization has the focus of serving parents of children with extra challenges, I get to hear clear frustrations regarding connection to the faith community.  One mother wonders how to finally get through to her pastor and convince them to allow a special needs ministry at their church.  Another mom says her church excels at serving disabled adults, but kids, not so much.  WHY, O GOD addresses  these concerns and so much more.

The fact is that despite their extensive biblical training, pastors are not specifically trained in the arena  of counseling the disabled and their families.  Many pastors are, in fact, downright avoidant when it comes to wrestling openly with the questions of suffering and what the Bible has to say about such things.  Humanity naturally makes us suffering averse, and those in leadership are no exception.

But this book, edited by Larry J. Waters and Roy B. Zuck, with 18 contributing authors examines all of these facets.  From children to adults, bioethics to pastoral care, WHY, O GOD examines so may of the key issues that bring people of many different reference points to the heart of disability ministry.  Do you want to make your existing ministry richer or are you looking to just get going, but don’t know where to begin?  Then this volume is for you!  I would say that it belongs on the shelf of every servant of Christ who is serious about serving and empowering those in the arena of special needs.

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