A Bruised Heart

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 42:3 ESV

As Christians, we must realize that God is not mad at us. He is not angry with us when we struggle in seasons of depression. When the struggles of life, the emptiness of loss, and the hurt of rejection bruise our hearts, Christ is present to heal, restore, and love. Remember that the same prophet who said that my wound is grievous and incurable (Jer. 15:18) is the same prophet who said from the Lord, “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” (Jer. 29:11). In this new year, we must remember that Christ is the balm of Gilead, the bright and morning star, the healer of our souls, our hope, our future and our mercy. He is not mad at us, but is longing to show us mercy in the midst of our sad faces and heavy hearts.

The sighs of a bruised heart carry in them a report, both of our affection to Christ, and of his care to us. The eyes of our souls cannot be towards him unless he has cast a gracious look upon us first. The least love we have to him is but a reflection of his love first shining upon us.

As Christ did, in his example to us, whatever he charges us to do, so he suffered in his own person whatever he calls us to suffer, so that he might the better learn to relieve and pity us in our sufferings. . . .

But our comfort is that Christ drank the dregs of the cup for us, and will succour us, so that our spirits may not utterly fail under that little taste of his displeasure which we may feel. He became not only a man but a curse, a man of sorrows, for us. He was broken that we should not be broken; he was troubled, that we should not be desperately troubled; he became a curse, that we should not be accursed. Whatever may be wished for in an all-sufficient comforter is all to be found in Christ.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 1630 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2008), 66.

 

Disappointment, His Appointment

On Responding to Disappointment

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.

Psalm 119:71 NLT

Our daily choice: react or respond to life’s unexpected setbacks and mind-boggling disappointments (Heb. 12:14-15). Reacting is being angry at our circumstances, frustrated with people, and despondent at not getting our way (James 1:20).

Responding sees the bigger picture: God has an appointment in our disappointment. It is not God’s will that people sin, but when God allows their sin to touch our lives, then their actions have become God’s will for us (2 Cor. 4:7-12). To grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we must have a yielded heart: a willingness to allow God to use our trials and tribulations to produce the life of Christ in us (Phil 1:293:10). In order to grow spiritually, we trust God’s sovereign purposes. He is using selfish people, hard places, and broken things to give us our heart’s desire: genuine Christlikeness (Rom. 8:17).

Responding believes that our Heavenly Father has a divine appointment in the midst of our various trials and setbacks. It trusts God’s goodness knowing that God’s sovereign hand is operating in and through the baffling and trying times of life.

We may not understand “why,” but we choose to trust our Heavenly Father who is good, loving, and gracious. We believe that the Father has our best in mind and is not rejecting us by allowing various difficulties in our lives (Heb. 12:7-12).

Responding comes forth from a thankful heart drawing us into the Holy Spirit’s wellspring of grace (Heb. 12:14-15). Responding says “yes” to God and looks for opportunities to grow in our intimate love relationship with Christ. In short, responding is confident that God has an appointment in our disappointment.

 

Disappointment, His Appointment

 

Disappointment-His appointment, change one letter

Then I see, that the thwarting of my purpose is God’s better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing, though it may come in disguise.

For the end from the beginning, open to his wisdom lies.

 

Disappointment-His appointment, whose?

The Lord’s who loves me best,

Understands and knows me fully, Who my faith and love would test.

For like loving, earthly parent,

He rejoices when He knows,

That his child accepts unquestioned all that from His wisdom flows.

 

Disappointment-His appointment,

No good thing will He withhold, from denials oft we gather,

Treasures of His love untold,

Well He knows each broken purpose leads to fuller deeper trust,

And the end of all His dealings, proves our God is wise and just.

 

Disappointment-His appointment,

Lord, I take it then as such,

Like the clay in hands of potter yielding wholly to Thy touch.

All my life’s plan is Thy molding, not one single choice be mine,

Let me answer unrepining Father not my will but THINE.

Lyrics: Anonymous

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Album: “Love Broke Thru”


The Pastoral Burden

Pastoral Responsibility and Its Limits

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Eph. 4:22-24

I ‘ve been in pastoral ministry for thirty years now, it’s hard to believe that I have served that long. I have been a staff member with the Agape Force, Director of College and Career for an Assembly of God fellowship, and a charismatic Baptist Church (S.B.C.). Also, I pastored an independent charismatic church called Christ Our Life. The last fifteen years of my pastoral ministry has been with the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).

Serving as a presbyter (i.e., priest) as opposed to a preacher/pastor has been fulfilling. Maybe in the coming weeks, I can explore the differences and similarities of being a priest as opposed to a pastor. But for the moment, a presbyter and a pastor both feel a great spiritual burden for their sheep. Pastoral ministers live with the grief of departures, the sadness of unexplainable suffering, and seeming futility of their work.

All of us as ministers struggle with discouragement at times. You work with people, spend time with people, exhort people to trust Christ, and then, watch those same people make bad moral choices. You wonder what you could have done to prevent such spiritual calamity (Heb. 13:17).

In the past, I would often feel guilty for their failure. Somehow I thought, I must not have said the right thing, or taught the needed truth, or spent enough time with them. Then, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me. He said, “I have called you to love, to serve, to teach, to counsel, to encourage, and to pray for others. However, each person has to make their own choice to walk in the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). You cannot make others walk in the Spirit, all that you can do to is to encourage them to trust me.” In other words as a pastor, you cannot make people choose righteousness. Their choices are their responsibility.

The Holy Spirit’s words have brought an immense amount of comfort to me. The decision is up to each individual: Do they really want to change? Do they really want Christ more than any worldly pleasure or fleshly desire? Do they really want to please Christ in their attitudes and actions? Do they want Christ more than anything (Phil. 3:11)? For pastoral ministry to be effective, we must have an unreserved willingness to change, to hear God, and to obey his instructions.

We must have the unconditional readiness to change in order to be transformed by Christ.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), vii.