About five weeks ago I entered into what has been both a new and also an interesting experience in my life. I woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain in my back. I was about to learn firsthand the joys and sorrows of having a kidney stone. There have been more sorrows than joys. Over my years of ministry I have known people who have suffered with kidney stones. I think, but I’m not certain, that I might even have visited a few people in hospital as a result of them. But I had never actually had one and that makes all the difference in the world.
I once read that the difference between major surgery and minor surgery is that major surgery is what happens to me and minor surgery is what happens to you. There is a lot of truth in that statement. There is nothing that actually raises our sympathy level like going through a health issue ourselves.
I have surgery scheduled for October 8th at which time the goal is to blast the stone into a whole lot of tiny pieces so that they can all exit my body with a minimum of pain and problems. At least that is what I am hoping will happen. At the moment I am almost pain free which is a blessing. I am able to carry out an almost normal work load although I still tire a little faster than I would like. This has made things a little more difficult over the past five weeks but I have much more for which to be thankful than I have problems about which to complain. Whatever the future holds I am thankful for God’s blessings.
Keeping a balance
I am not sharing this with you simply because I want to increase the number of people who feel sorry for me. That is the last thing that I would want to see happen because there is nothing for which to feel sorry. God has blessed me with family, friends, a fulfilling ministry, a church that loves me, fairly good health, and many other things that make my life good.
I am reading a book in my devotional time entitled Eternity Changes Everything by Stephen Witmer. It isn’t a bad book but it isn’t a particularly good book either. I wouldn’t suggest that you run out and buy it but reading it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. I realize that this isn’t a rousing endorsement but you’ve all read those books that leave you neither excited nor disappointed. This is that kind of book
Having said all of that about the book, I love the title. It is on my list of titles that I wish that I had thought of first. It is so true. Eternity does change everything. If we are going to have a proper balance in our lives, we need to see everything that we are and do through the lens of eternity. God has promised us a life without end in an existence without pain, without tears and without death. Even more important he has promised us eternal life without sin. He has promised us existence in the very presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Two weeks after my first morning with the pain, I developed an even higher level of pain, so much so that I had to go to the emergency department at the hospital. I must confess that as I sat there waiting my turn in emerge, I wasn’t thinking deep theological thoughts about eternity. All that was on my mind was the pain and how they were going to stop it. Pain tends to focus our thinking. Please, just give me something to take this pain away.
As I’ve thought about my experience in light of eternity, I have been reminded again that eternity is the only thing that brings balance to our lives. It isn’t a new thought. I’ve known that truth for a long time but there is nothing like going through some pain myself to bring that reality to the forefront of my thinking.
We live in a world full of problems. People go through hardships – illnesses, broken relationships, job losses, disappointments, and so much else. In the larger picture there is little justice in the world and often it is the most vulnerable who suffer injustice the most. I am so glad as I look at the imbalance of this life, that eternity balances the scales.
A Closing Thought
As I wrote this entry, I was aware that the topic seems to have little to do with small-church ministry. I felt a little strange sharing my personal problems in a blog. It has been an up and down period of my life but there are far more ups than downs and for that I am thankful.
Then I began to realize that keeping an eye on eternity might just be one of the most essential elements of being a small-church leader. If there is one thing that I know about small-church ministry, it’s that for every leader there will be times of discouragement. There is no position of leadership that doesn’t have its disappointments and even its pain. I want to leave you with a verse of scripture as an encouragement.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18