It is an odd thing, I have discovered during my nearly three years as a pastor, to be entrusted with people’s pain. 

It’s not an everyday occurrence, but
today pain came calling.  Two conversations with two people, both
carrying crippling burdens of hurt and despair, sorrow and longing, both
dealing with the complex cocktails of physical, spiritual, mental, and
relational pain that characterize so many lives, both searching
desperately for a word of hope, comfort, or encouragement.  ”Do you have
a verse for me?”  ”Some advice?” “Wisdom?”  ”Help?” “Compassion?”  It
can be a simultaneously wonderful and helpless feeling to be invited
into these deep and dark places.  And it is scary to realize how little I
often have to say.

Today’s conversations weren’t necessarily
any more or less heartbreaking than others I have been a part of, but
that didn’t make them any easier.  I still find it hard to know what to
do.  You ask questions, you listen, you invite elaboration, you listen,
you gently probe and push and pull.  You listen.  And sometimes you end
up back where you started.  At one point, after a number of attempts to
isolate “the problem,” the face across from me just stopped and looked
vacantly toward the tree of life hanging that
graces the wall of my study.  A few tears appeared.  Then a few more.
 A couple of  half-sentences were haltingly attempted.  And then,  “I
don’t know… everything just seems to be broken.”

Yes.  Everything does seem to be broken.  And it hurts.

There were more tears, there were
prayers, there were hugs.  And then we went our separate ways, fortified
by entreaties to our inscrutable God and the care of each other.  Some
days it seems like these are the (only) things that can change the
world.  Other days, you wonder if they will even make a difference for
the next hour.

I thought about pain’s visit today as I
sat (appropriately) in the dentist’s office, waiting for my son to get
four teeth extracted from his overcrowded mouth to make room for the
ones on their way.  I thought about Paul’s words about suffering and
glory in Romans 8.  My son’s groans through a swollen mouth full of
gauze on the drive home seemed almost like a kind of enactment of my
morning and of this passage.  I thought about the groaning of all of
creation, about the groaning of God’s harassed and helpless children who
await adoption, redemption, salvation.

Adoption, redemption, salvation.  Such wonderful words.  Such a necessary hope for a world where everything seems to be broken.

Originally posted at Rumblings.

Ryan Dueck

Ryan Dueck is the pastor of Lethbridge Mennonite Church in Alberta, Canada. He blogs at Rumblings, part of the CCblogs network.

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