On the 29th I’ll stand in front of my faith community and tell them what I’ve learned this past year. I’ve been with them just under a year, trying to find my role amongst a very diverse group of people with all sorts of gifts, talents, and life experiences. They really are an amazing group of people and I’m grateful to be with them as we become an even closer faith community. This closeness and relational depth does have another component that I didn’t anticipate, though I’m not sure how I missed it.
I am speaking about sorrow.
A life invested in the care of others must have an element of sorrow, especially for the Christian who lives with eyes wide-open to the brokenness of our present circumstances. The pastoral experience of sorrow can be intense as we tend to be more aware of the collective pain, worry, regret, and struggle that our communities are experiencing. This past Sunday, I sat in the back of our church and looked out over the congregation, praying for the specific needs of those individuals and families that I knew had some significant challenge in their lives. The cumulative effect of this was, as best as I can describe it, a feeling of sorrow.
There’s another experience that accompanied my prayer that day. When I look out over the community that I’m blessed to be a part of, I’m also reminded of the grace, mercy, love, hope, and even JOY, that marks those same lives. I’m fortunate that I get to know about that side of the story as well. A community in deep need of grace amidst sorrow is a community prepared for a fullness of joy.
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2Cor. 6:3-10)
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. This is a powerful balance that I think I’m learning more about as God opens my eyes to the life of my faith community.