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”

Giving up your king (Matthew 26:14-16)

When it goes dark, it’s not the time to give up on the light.

Matthew 26:14-16 (my translation, compare NIV)
14 Then one of the twelve — the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the high priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me, and I’ll hand him over to you?” They settled on thirty silver coins. 16 From then, he was looking for the right moment to hand him over.

What did this mean for Jesus? And what did it mean for Judas? This doorway has two sides.

Continue reading “Giving up your king (Matthew 26:14-16)”

Trusting God’s love when life hurts

My father has been gone for many years, but I was having a conversation with him and my son when the alarm went off this morning. We were discussing how it feels when your child doesn’t trust you. The example we raised was how God might have felt when Abraham and Sarah decided to use a surrogate because God had not delivered their inheritance.

Family relationships hold a great deal of hurt. I wonder if Sarah’s parents felt rejected when she set off to start a new life and never come back. I wonder what mistrust Sarah felt for a husband who would trade her to someone else to save himself. How betrayed did Hagar feel when Abraham dumped her and their son in the desert to die? And what about Ishmael, a child who could not know what “mistrust” meant since he’d never known trust. What’s it like to grow up without trust, without love, without hope, shaped by an undefined anger at an absent father who left you to survive by shooting? (Genesis 21:20)

What’s your story? In the semi-final of The Voice 2020, one of the contestants was given a pen and asked to describe how she felt about herself coming into the competition. The words she chose were telling: “unworthy, broken, unlovable, lost.” What made a difference was that somebody cared. Someone asked. And listened. You’re no longer unworthy, broken, unlovable, lost when somebody sees you.

So how does our Heavenly Father see us? Why doesn’t he prevent our pain? Why does he allow us to be mistreated? Continue reading “Trusting God’s love when life hurts”

Relationship with God

So, how’s your relationship with God? Personal? Troubled? In love? Inert?

The question is helpful for some, but I’ve noticed others retreat. They feel like God isn’t speaking to them. Or their life is a struggle right now. If they felt safe enough to give an honest answer, they might respond like Job, “If only I knew where to find him” (Job 23:3). Continue reading “Relationship with God”

The king understands his people (Matthew 9:18-26)

Jesus knew how to care for people who were socially sensitive and people who didn’t understand the social niceties. Worth following?

Open Matthew 9:18-26.

The Synoptic Gospels intertwine the stories of two very different people. One is an influential ruler who loses his daughter; the other is a woman whose only influence is making everything she touches ritually unclean due to her menorrhagia. Jesus understood the different responses of powerful and powerless people.

Continue reading “The king understands his people (Matthew 9:18-26)”