Recently while out of town I had the privilege of sitting down for an extended lunch with an elder who I have known and loved for more than thirty years. After reminiscing about old times and talking about our families we begin discussing our work with the Church.
With tears in his eyes, he started talking about how many families are hurting in the congregation he serves. He said, “Jeff, I believe there’s a hurtin’ on every pew!” Two thoughts initially crossed my mind.
First Thought: Very few people know how much time and energy elders in the Church spend in prayer for people who are hurting. Often, elders are criticized for decisions they make that somebody doesn’t like. They are criticized because they may not be the most polished or capable spokesman. They are criticized because somebody doesn’t think they are approachable enough.
Some elder, elder’s wife, or elder’s family who is reading this is heart-broken because of unjust criticism received. He has no way to defend himself because the critics often times hide behind the cloak of anonymity. All I have to say about that is shame on us.
Through the years, I have sat in meetings with shepherds watching and listening as they prayed for, cried over, and discussed ways they can help some hurting family or individual. I have seen them shed tears time and again as they struggled with the best way to help encourage a soul or a heart that is hurting.
Second Thought: “There’s a hurtin’ on every pew!” When we gather as God’s Family on Sunday there will be people all around us who are hurting. Some who are reading this are hurting deeply.
Some preacher, preacher’s wife, preacher’s kid who will read this is hurting deeply. Some preacher will stand in front of an assembly of people on Sunday with a smile on his face because he has been led to believe he needs to hide his own feelings to be able to help others.
Behind his smiling face is a broken heart. He’s not sure he will have a job next week. He is barely making enough money to pay the bills and buy food for his family this week. His wife is struggling because she has no friends in the Church. He is hurting because others have shunned his kids. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some young couple sits side by side in Church, but they have been fighting all week. They don’t know if their marriage will survive this latest bout. He struggles with pornography or drugs or alcohol, and she struggles with depression or resentment or anger. They don’t know where to turn or what to do. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some single mother or father sits all alone wondering if they are going to be able to make it another week. They wonder if anybody knows about their struggles. They wonder if anybody cares. They wonder if anybody will speak to them today. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some single person longs to be married. They have prayed and prayed but feel that their prayer hasn’t yet been answered. They are looking for that right person but time is catching up with them and they are beginning to wonder if it is going to happen. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some parent is about to take their only child off to college. They will miss them desperately. They wonder if they will remember the lessons they have been trying to teach them for the past eighteen years. They wonder if they will stay strong in their faith. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some brother or sister in the Lord just learned that they have cancer. Someone is hurting because they are going through radiation or chemotherapy. Someone is in great physical pain because of a recent surgery. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some fellow Christian continues to grieve over a loss in their life. It could be a spouse, a parent, a child, or a dear friend who was taken away by death. It could have been this week or years ago, but they still suffer from the loss. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Some older brother or sister lives alone and wonders if anyone cares about them. They are in constant pain and haven’t slept much in days. They long to see family or friends. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Someone is in great emotional pain simply because life happens and recently it seems that nothing has gone right. It seems like the world is caving in around them. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Someone is struggling mightily with his or her spiritual walk with God. They are fighting Satan with everything they have but it seems like they lose more than they win. Like our brother Paul, they find themselves doing what they don’t want to do and not being able to do what they want to do. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
Brother Dan Winkler reminded us during this year’s annual Preacher Training Camp that brother Franklin Camp used to say that when you preach, 75% of the people listening to you are hurting. My sense is that the number of people who are hurting today is greater than that. There’s a hurtin’ on every pew.
So, what can we do? What can preachers do? What can shepherds do? What can any of us do when there’s a hurtin’ on every pew? Maybe these five thoughts will be of some help.
TRUST GOD. Realize that God knows about every hurt. He knows about every tear. He knows about every pain. He knows our deepest concerns. And He cares. Our God is bigger than anything that would seek to destroy us. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
SPEND MUCH TIME IN PRAYER. Not only does God know and care, He wants us to come to Him with our hurts, anxieties, and fears. “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
LOVE ONE ANOTHER. There is so much pain around us, so much skepticism, so many jaded lives that more than ever before we need to show our love for one another. We need to tell each other how much we love each other. “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. The Holy Spirit tells us that one of our main purposes for coming together is to encourage, edify, and build up. “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
FOCUS ON OUR ETERNAL GOAL. It is true that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world. This world is not our forever home. We long for Heaven. We long to be with our Father. We long to with our Jesus. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Dear Father in Heaven, help us to realize that there are people all around us who are hurting. We pray that You will help us encourage one another, pray for one another, love one another, place our trust in You, and focus on our Eternal Home. We pray that You will relieve us of our pain. We pray that You will send Jesus quickly so that we can enter the place where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, and only join in Your presence. In His Name we pray, Amen.