Really Ministering to those in Need

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  March 7, 2015

            Susan wanted to believe the preaching and teaching in the church, but she had a hard time coming to terms with the messages of forgiveness and grace. Not only was it too much for her to bear, the overwhelming strain of her past actually crippled her ability to be forgiven.
            The church reached out to her and extended the most faithful evangelism in bringing Susan to know the Gospel. They prayed for her and reminded her of God’s love. Yet her time in worship also made her feel sick inside. She knew of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy but when she stood in the presence of God in the worshipping community, the contrast between all of God’s goodness with her own knowledge of how sinful she had been—and to a large extent, still was—was more than she could bear.
            The torment within her spirit gave rise to a strong depression and eventually she came to conclude that God truly had not forgiven her sins because she knew things were not getting better for her. In fact, as she sank deeper in the mire of her own sense of shame and worthlessness, the misery only increased.
            Chances are, Susan is in church with you every Sunday. You may not realize the depth of her torment, or the incredible pain she suffers, but Susan could tell you if she was not in so much fear of being labeled a bad Christian for how she feels. This marks the vicious cycle of Susan’s pain. She wants to believe in God’s forgiveness, but since she only knows such shame, it is hard for her. Yet, as she struggles in the torment of what seems to be unanswered prayer, her pain is intensified by an apparent reluctance by God to reach out and help. In turn, Susan concludes that God probably does not want to forgive her and she feels less a Christian and possibly unloved by God.
            As the pain deepens, Susan quietly fades from the church. Often, very few people notice her absence. In her deepening despair, Susan concludes that it is not only God that does not care, but Christians do not care either. It is then that Susan gives up on God, gives up on the church, and gives up on any hope in Christ through faith.
            Susan is someone you know. She may go by a man’s name, or some other woman’s name. She may be very wealthy or may be barely scraping by. She comes in all races and nationalities. She may be very well educated or may not have much education at all. In fact, Susan may be the very person reading these words. Yet, for all the diverse ways we may see and experience Susan, there are two things that do not change. Susan is in pain and God loves Susan!
            The challenge for the church is to not simply reach out to Susan with the message of salvation and celebrate when she makes the confession, receives the waters of baptism, and enters into her new life in Christ. We must then be, for Susan, the full embodiment of God’s love.
            In talking to Susan and all the women and men like her in the world, there is a common expression of shared experience. They relate that the church did a far better job of talking about God’s love and posturing themselves as beneficiaries of that love and did a poor job or really living God’s love.
            The tragedy is that many Christians work hard putting on a worshipful front of praiseful faith and spiritual abundance and are actually so consumed in their own spiritual narcissism that they are incapable of even seeing Susan’s pain, let alone ministering Christ’s grace and love in the moment of her greatest need. Yet, in reaching out to Susan, we touch the heart of Christ.