Time Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Benjer McVeigh)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –Jesus in John 16:33, NIV
A couple of Saturdays ago our two-year-old daughter and I had a “Daddy Date” at our local McDonald’s. Bethany and I shared some hash browns, and after a quick few sips of milk, she was off to play in the indoor playground. Normally, Bethany happily spends most of her time playing, only taking breaks to come get some more hash browns and milk from her daddy. On this day, however, there was a pair of rambunctious boys in the play place. These older boys weren’t being mean; they were just being…boys. They were having a great time barking and pretending to be dogs. By most accounts, it was a couple of brothers having a fun time. To my two-year-old Bethany, however, it was a slightly scary experience. After a couple of tries trying to ignore the loud noises, she came up to me and said, “I don’t want a Daddy Date anymore.”
Her sad face broke my heart. I told her that just because she wasn’t having a good time at McDonald’s, that didn’t mean our Daddy Date had to end. We decided that our next stop would be to a park we call the Duck Pond, and we had a wonderful time for the rest of the morning.
When Bethany found that her surroundings were getting a bit unpleasant, she asked for our Daddy Date to be over. We do the same thing sometimes when life gets tough: we automatically associate our difficult circumstances with God, and so we think the solution is to get rid of both all together. But just as Bethany’s daddy was sad to hear she was scared, God cares for us when we hurt.
Of course, at some point the analogy breaks down (and not just because I’m not God). After all, we can’t just tell God that we don’t want a Daddy Date anymore and have him instantaneously sweep us off to a better place. It’s not that God can’t do this, or that he doesn’t care that we’re hurting. We’re not given all the reasons why God allows pain in our lives, but Jesus does make it clear that difficulty is an expected part of a disciple’s life: “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).
So what happens when that trouble comes? Those of us who minister to youth in some way often are at a loss of what to feel. We are often tempted to believe that because we are in a position of leadership within the church—whether as a paid staff member or a volunteer youth worker—we shouldn’t ever feel as though we don’t have all the answers when it comes to our relationship with God, or that we ever feel so lost or hurt that we wonder where God is. The truth is that all followers of Jesus feel this way at one point in time or another, and we shouldn’t expect to be immune. And when our world seems dark, our time is better spent holding on to Truth revealed in God’s Word—such as that God’s love is everlasting or that Jesus has overcome this harsh world—than trying to pretend like we have it all together.
Stuart McAllister, a lively Scottish apologist, once put it this way when preaching at our church: “Life is hard. God is good. Don’t get the two confused.” We can be honest about how difficult life is. After all, Jesus said it would be. But we can also hold on to the love and goodness of our God.
A prayer of lament and hope:
Questions for Reflection:
When have you experienced “trouble” in your life?
Has there been a time when you wondered if God was there, or if he really cares for you?
Have you ever tried to pretend like everything was okay when everything was going wrong?
What has brought you the most hope during difficult times?
Benjer McVeigh is a youth pastor in Ogden, UT, where he works with students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church. You can read more from Benjer at www.benjermcveigh.com
Posted on September 6, 2010