This post was in our draft file for nearly two years and I discovered it last night. The link is to a blog called Justified and Sinner, which redirects to A Simple Christian. The author is not named. This will resonate with those of you have devoted time to helping people in their spiritual growth.
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2 to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3 The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4 They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)
\573 Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behavior or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway. (1)
There is a point in ministry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.
An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.
Or someone who asks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.
It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome. In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insane, but completely insane.
There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom. Sometimes we even bounce between the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemma.
This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on investment” must result in a immediate result that is satisfactory dominates our churches. We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”. We are hurt because we get into these fields because we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives. We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.
And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…
And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways. Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.
The nearly identical advice is seen above, (I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else). Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives. It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either. It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.
Days preaching and teaching and counseling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrifice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need. Ministry and teaching and counseling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encouraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed. We are going to have to suffer in this role. Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ wept over Jerusalem. We need to realize that this struggle is okay.
That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven. They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different. We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship. And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us. He doesn’t change… He never will… although the results can’t be seen by us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.
In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world thinks is insane. So let us keep our eyes on Him, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.