A friend of mine -- also a pastor -- just resigned from his position at his church. It was a rough situation with some sad moments in the tale. Pastors often resign too quickly, but sometimes a pastoral resignation is appropriate -- and this seems to be one of those times.
In announcing his resignation, my friend wrote a good, healthy letter to his church family. One paragraph in particular struck me...
"It would be easy to leave our church right now. Things are difficult and it is not easy to persevere through difficulties; it is not attractive to come to a church that is having difficulties. But churches [that] are working through difficulties... are the true churches of Christ... If we do not have problems then we are either not dealing with reality or God has been exceptionally gracious. Problems are normal."
There's a profound truth there that applies not only to churches, but to marriages... to families... to friendships... to working partnerships... to nations... basically to all communities -- no matter how large, no matter how small -- that our God has called together in this fallen, sin-sick world.
It's so easy to leave, to bolt, to run away, to ditch, to flee... it's so difficult to persevere in the midst of the long trial, or the sudden heartbreaking disappointment. Cynicism is easy. Hope is hard. Sullenness & sulkiness come quickly to the weak children of Adam. Love with backbone is sometimes a rare thing, even among the redeemed children of Christ.
Is this now why the writer to the Hebrews steeled his readers with these words in the midst of their difficulties?
"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,'Yet a little while,and the coming one will come and will not delay;but my righteous one shall live by faith,and if he shrinks back,my soul has no pleasure in him.'But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."
All relationships & all working partnerships in this world will eventually face low points. But as my friend wrote above, that's normal. And in God's mysterious providence, it's even ultimately for our good. He is committed to purifying & refining us, regardless of the cost -- to us or to him.
"Remember, you are never more like God than when you are living in relationships with God's people and working in partnerships for the re-creation and redemption of God's world." ~Ray Bakke