Our people come to us with various issues. Some of them may be waiting for a test from the doctor to come back. They don’t know what it will say but there is great fear for the diagnoses could be deadly. Others are already on the way down and are not sure who they should tell or what they should do. They are overwhelmed as they approach the end of this life and the opening up of eternity. There may be others who are on the brink of divorce, but no one knows but that family. They struggle to still act like everything is OK, but the struggle becomes more and more difficult. Someone has lost a spouse a few years ago, but has never been able to deal with it and the church has now moved on to the next immediate issue that draws its attention for those with pains that will not go away.
The question I have for you is “What are you preaching to these people?” Are you real or are you simply shoveling the manure that is often distributed to much of contemporary Christianity. Are you teaching these people to stick their head in the sand and assume that God will bring a cure to their sickness down here? Does your “name it claim it” theology help people live in the midst of painful circumstances or condemn them for not having the mythological faith that would remove all painful circumstances.
Ultimately, we preachers must tell the truth. We must be pastoral and tell it delicately. Certainly we can’t tell all the truth at once, but we must tell the truth. This is not a problem for all preachers, but some of us need a reality check. Whooping about how God is gonna hook you up has a place and time. But over the life of your preaching, please don’t give people the impression that if circumstances assail them that it is because of a deficiency of their faith.
Mess will happen to us all and if time lasts all of us will get sick and die. But our Christian and ethnic tradition reminds us a couple of things. First, “I’m so Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always.” It is true that sometimes that trouble lasts till our deaths, but sometimes death itself is a welcome relief to intense pain and suffering.
Our tradition also gives us the assurance that Jesus will always be with us. He Himself said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And the Psalmist said, “Though I make My bed in hell, thou art with me.” (Psalm 139:8) As we preach over the years, let us always remember to remind and help our people to see that In this world you will have trouble, but we will understand it better bye and bye when God will reveal to us that God was always with us and never let us out of God’s hand…