Ministry's Companions

We are in the thick of summer ministry.  Being in the neighborhood four days a week brings the struggles of poverty into glaring light.  The heartaches that are faced in our neighborhoods are in my face, impossible to ignore, rehab recoveries, working poor struggling to provide groceries, frugal landlords that neglect their properties in unsafe ways, young men who’s lives have ended with gun shots in our city parks, parks that should be sanctuaries for children to play are places of business for drug dealers and gang members, seeing disfunction be the norm for families, hardened hearts and hungry stomachs.

There is a sadness that comes in intense times of ministry.  I wrote about it last summer and this winter.  It is a natural part of any type of incarnate ministry, when you meet people where they live.  When you get street-level, eye-level, to a person who is suffering, how do you not feel compassion well up in your spirit?

I found out this spring that I had a vitamin D deficiency.  I have attacked the problem with full force, supplements, salmon, eggs, and I haven’t been this tan since I was a kid that spent weeks at the lake.

Low vitamin D can contribute to depression, and some days I feel like that cartoon character that has the little cloud following him around.

I’m told that I look tired quite often.

I’m conscious of it, I’m resisting, but there’s no mistaking it, I’m sad.  Sad for the problems I can’t fix and sad because my brain needs some vitamin D.

I know I’m in trouble when I start taking offense meaningless crossed arms.  Or feel hurt by not words said, but unsaid words.  Or when I want to take up residence inside a Tres Leches cake.

These are all signs that my hormones or brain chemistry are letting me down.

I try to tell my brain to just hold on and feel better, but it doesn’t want to listen to me.

My husband tells me that I’m making it worse by reading sad books.  He might be right, but I would tell you to pick up The Kitchen House or Just Mercy in a heartbeat.  We can’t fix a problem that we don’t know about.  I think coming to a place of grief over our country’s problems is the first step in working towards better race relations.

This isn’t a blog post where I have ah-ha moments for you or some neatly wrapped lesson for you to take away.

What is the solution to sadness?

Joy?

Joy is right there beside the sadness, but it isn’t so much a solution.  It is a companion to sadness.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
— Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV

My joy is just as present this summer.  It is always with me.

Maybe you are getting ready for a mission trip or an intense season of ministry.  I feel responsible to warn you that sadness will come, but you can weather that storm.

Hold onto joy and celebrate hope.

Maybe your pastor or a missionary friend looks tired.  If they are doing their job right, there’s some sadness and joy in their eyes.  They might need some extra love, maybe a hug or a slice of Tres Leches (as long as they are not lactose intolerant.)

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
— 1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

 

 

When you're feeling sad, you know Glen won't let you down.  His music will keep you company, and the horns will cheer you up.