Pastoral care case: Genesis 16

Here’s a practical exercise in pastoral care, hearing people in their pain.

Wherever you care for people — family, small groups, churches, counselling — you’ll feel the whole gamut of emotions. Empathy for their pain. Disappointment with how they treat each other. Hope that they’ll sort things out. Powerlessness to sort it out for them.

We’d love to have our churches full of mature people who have the faith of Abraham and Sarah, but sometimes our people feel more like the problem than the solution. So, here’s some honest pastoral encouragement for you. Your clients are Abraham and Sarah, as we meet them in Genesis 16.

They have this amazing call on their lives to establish a kingdom that will bless all nations. Ten years they’ve walked with God in the land of promise, but they still have their old names and they’re struggling to trust God.

We’re shocked to learn that Abram is sleeping with someone who isn’t his wife. Actually, that’s not what happened, and if that’s our judgement we won’t be able to listen to them.

So, here’s your pastoral care exercise. Read Genesis 16 carefully. Observe the three main characters. Identify what they’re feeling, and what they do in response. Jot down your observations.

Sarai: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Abram: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hagar: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Continue reading “Pastoral care case: Genesis 16”

The scent of your words (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2)

What we say reveals who we’re speaking for.

Want peace on earth? There’s a message that can deliver it. No, it’s not “Everybody try harder!” It’s the announcement that the hostilities are over because God has rescued humanity from the warring factions of evil, into the reign of his anointed. That’s the good news of salvation.

Words matter. Continue reading “The scent of your words (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2)”

Processing offence (Ephesians 4:26)

Growing up, I was never angry. Anger was sinful, so I could never be angry.

One day I discovered this in Ephesians 4:26: In your anger, do not sin. God knew I would feel angry, and he asked me to manage my response.

I can’t tell you how liberating that was. For the first time, I could ask myself the question God asked Cain, “Why are you angry?” (Genesis 4:6). Owning the emotion was the first step to processing it. My anger often came from frustration, sometimes from injustice, occasionally I’d transferred it from another issue. Identifying and owning these emotions (affect labelling) was a stepping-stone to a healthy response. Continue reading “Processing offence (Ephesians 4:26)”

Does God get angry? (Exodus 4:14)

Open Exodus 4:14.

What do you do with texts like this?

Exodus 4:14 (NIV)
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses …

The wrath of God gets people running one way or the other:

  • God’s anger is a core doctrine for some people. They believe God’s anger is the problem that the gospel solves (Romans 1:18).
  • God’s anger is something shameful for many Christians. They fear the image of an angry God drives people away from faith.

So what do we do with texts that talk about God’s anger? Continue reading “Does God get angry? (Exodus 4:14)”