There are so many blessings that come from serving in ministry. Being a willing tool to share God’s love with someone else fills the heart with a joy that only comes from the Perfecter of our faith. But we all know that ministry can also break our hearts. This post comes off the heels of last month’s post about the sufficiency of God in the midst of our brokenness. How timely God is… I looked back at that post to encourage myself after a discouraging incident a couple of weeks ago when serving a young boy with special needs at my church. I have been paired with him on several occasions; he’s a particularly smart and perceptive young boy. As grateful as am to God for giving him this ability, two weeks ago this gift is what caused such heartache.
My young friend had just had a difficult interaction with one of the other kids in his class. It resulted in my friend sitting in a chair in the corner of the classroom–his arms were crossed and his head buried as far into his chest as he could get it. I knelt down beside him and asked what was wrong. Without lifting his head, he told me he was upset because his brain had been stolen in the middle of the night. I was immediately taken aback. I thought I had heard him wrong so I asked him again. He jerked his head up, looked me straight in the eyes and with great frustration said he was mad at God for stealing his brain in the middle of the night, and that’s why he is so different from the other kids. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Tears immediately started forming in the corners of my eyes. My heart broke as I looked at this smart, spirited boy who was too young to perceive the chasms that our sinful natures create around anyone and anything that is different. Satan was using God’s amazing gift of perception to fill his head with lies!
I spent the next several minutes sitting next to him as he battled with God, wondering why he was so different from the other kids. With every painful feeling he threw at me, I could see a wall building up around his heart. In that moment, I wished I had more training. I wished I knew the words to say to demolish the lies he was believing in his head. But all I could do was try to encourage him with the wonderful gifts and abilities God had given him. With every contradiction to his lies, I hoped to break down his emotional barricade, brick by brick.
I left church that morning broken, feeling completely helpless. I felt like Satan had won a battle that day. But in time, God allowed the feelings from that morning to turn from brokenness and defeat to conviction. Satan might have broken our spirits that day, but God has an eternal stronghold on our hearts. That day will stay with me forever. It has given me a greater determination to be a catalyst of God’s love to my friend. And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? That’s what ministry is. In all its intricacies, ministry is simply loving people in such a way that God becomes more real and tangible to them. No class can teach us how to do that. That’s why God has provided us a Helper—His Spirit who lives in us, to guide us when we’re lost, and to put the pieces back together when we’ve been broken.
Rachel Roleder serves as the Manager of the Cause 4 Life, Global Missions and Internships Department at Joni and Friends. Rachel enjoys learning more of God’s design for His church as she leads teams of interns on disability ministry outreaches all over the world.