Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pain Plus Providence Equals Peace

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Gen 50:20-21

It’s remarkable. Joseph was willing and able to forgive his half-brothers, 22 years after they sold him and deceived their father. How did he do it? How did he reconcile with those who hated him and sought to hurt him so? Why did he not use the power he had in Egypt to destroy their lives? Instead, amazingly, he provided for them food, a home, and a new life.

His secret? He believed that God had worked through it all for everyone’s good.

He recognized his half-brothers’ evil intentions. He certainly did not believe that God had caused them to be malicious, vindictive, or hateful. Yet he understood that God had used their wicked ways to provide for him and for them in a new land.

Several years ago my wife and I experienced the most painful circumstances and changes we have ever confronted in our years of ministry. Only now, with those matters as resolved as they ever will be, do I feel that I can write about our crisis. I believe that my experience can be of benefit to others who are serving in ministry and may face similar situations.

Differing personalities, convictions, and leadership dynamics produced a crisis in the local church where I served at the time. Issues surfaced related to leadership, worship, youth, and education. I felt that I was held responsible, to some extent, for decisions and actions that I had not endorsed. I was caught in the cross-hairs. For the sake of the church, my family, and my own walk with the Lord, I found it necessary to resign my position. It was very hard to leave people I loved and a work which I had given my very best.

Rather than possibly hurting or dividing the church, I said virtually nothing to anyone by way of explanation. Though I still believe that this was best, I carried a great deal of pain and sorrow in my heart. Things had been said and done that cut me to the quick. The last thing I wanted was to cause or contribute to major trouble in the church, so I had to pull away rather than be dragged further into it.

I had never before left one ministry position without having another one waiting. We owned a house and still had a child in high school. What would we do? Where would we go? How could this have happened to us? We prayed without ceasing.

Most people who knew me were very kind, loving, and respectful. They realized that I must have done what I thought was right and best, even though I could not explain the situation to them. Others, however, who did not know me well, would look at me and act as if I had done something wrong. Whatever they had been told, or whatever they thought, I just had to swallow it. I hoped that eventually the matters in the church would be resolved and that people would know that I had tried my best.

Then I began hearing various “explanations” that were circulating as to why I had resigned. Some said that I no longer loved the people in the congregation. Some said that I never stayed anywhere very long and that this change was not unusual. Some said that I no longer wanted to preach the gospel with a local church. Such comments only added to my pain. I did not want to become bitter. What could I do?

Maybe I had been at fault. Could I have said or done something different that would have led to a healthier outcome? Should I have openly revealed the factors, personalities, and decisions that led me to resign? Should I have defended myself and confronted matters publicly? I did not think so, but I lost much sleep agonizing over the whole experience and questioning myself repeatedly.

What saved me from ultimate despair was my belief that God was at work.

In the months and years that have passed since that crisis point …

The Lord allowed us to keep our faith, our home, and our sanity.
The Lord allowed us to stay in that area long enough to overcome by sowing seeds of kindness and love.
The Lord allowed that church to enjoy restored stability after we left, thanks to some changes that other people made.
The Lord allowed me to return to that church as a guest speaker on several occasions. I was able to show that I will always love the good people there. I feel that I am part of the solution and not part of the problem.
The Lord allowed me to continue preaching His Word in a new local church setting in that same community with precious, faithful, loving saints.
The Lord allowed me to make new friends in that area that I otherwise would never have known. Several are among the best friends I have ever had in my life.
The Lord allowed me to train ministers and missionaries as an instructor and a dean at a Christian university.
The Lord allowed me to write quarterly Bible study material for Lambert Book House and to write or help write four books.
The Lord allowed me to make mission trips to South Africa and Canada, and to become involved as a regular speaker for Yellowstone Bible Camp.
The Lord allowed my wife to overcome by teaching children in a local Christian school. She was even chosen as “Teacher of the Year” by her peers.
The Lord allowed our children to turn out healthy and happy, loving the Lord and His church.
The Lord allowed us to relocate in a wonderful new church setting, where we are enjoying ministry together more than we ever have before.

Our pain has been great, but our God and his blessings have been greater.

Lord, your providence has given me peace, even in the midst of pain, and I love you for it. Grant me the wisdom and the grace to finish strong in your service. Do not allow the devil, or other people, or my own weaknesses, or anything else, to pull me away from you and your kingdom.

Pain plus providence equals peace. Joseph knew it, and now so do I. Thank you, Lord.
Cory Collins


No comments: