Extracting The Precious From The Worthless
by Beth Guckenberger
The seed from which this story grew was planted during a conversation with a dear friend in the middle of a paralyzing
separation from his wife. She had made a string of bad decisions and it was not looking like she would turn around, and still to date hasn’t. He
is a strong believer and was holding on with all he had to a Redeemer who promises us shelter and peace. “The church doesn’t make room for
people like me to share our testimony, Beth. No one wants me on a microphone until my wife comes back, or someone else’s diagnosis is
reversed, or the baby is healed, or their prodigal son returns . . . but God is going to bat for me hourly, and I have a lot to testify about.”
I told him about a verse I had heard recently in a funeral service for a long-time family friend who had committed suicide.
The family was huddled in the front row, shuddering with grief and the pastor acknowledged what we were all feeling: “This is worthless!” It was the most sincere exchange I had ever witnessed between the hurting and a comforter. It did not smack of spiritual platitudes. He did not try to make them feel or sense or accept that this was for anyone’s good. He simply expressed what we were all thinking: A life lost is tragic!
Then he went on to reassure us—pain will not prevail, delivery is imminent, and something precious would and could be born out of this current pain. It’s a storyline only Heaven can read.
I wanted to offer that same kind of comfort and value to my friend in the midst of his separation. I knew he would make a good spokesman. I wanted to hand him a microphone because he would talk about a God that was more than the magician we reduce him to when we ask him for parlor tricks. I wanted to hear about this God who met him in his pain, and was carrying him throughout this season. I wanted to hear about how his perspective was lifted up over just this day he was experiencing.
I have called God my Storyweaver for most of my life. It brings me both joy and comfort to think about my days in this larger context. What and how can God use this interaction, this conflict, this delay for his glory (and not my frustration…)?
I recently was in a conversation with a youth pastor of one of our country’s largest churches. He was sharing with me his journey, which
included a recent divorce and a season of pain brought on by his own choices. Immediately following that period, he lost his high-level
ministry job and put his resume on a Christian job board, hoping for a hit in the only field he had ever been employed. Then he got the call
from this large church.
“I was so surprised when they called. I thought it was a joke. After everything that had unfolded in the last couple of years, I thought I
would be lucky to get a volunteer position in ministry, let alone an interview at a church as prestigious as this one.”
“Were you honest?” I asked him. “Did you tell them what had happened?”
“It was all in my cover letter; they already knew when they called me. At the final interview, I asked the senior pastor what in particular led
him to me. I knew he had a whole stack of other, more qualified choices. The pastor looked at me and said, ‘Son, we have found in the church
that most people have a season of brokenness, one way or another. We like to look for staff on the other side of that broken season; we find
it makes them better ministers of the gospel of grace.’”
When I later reflected on his comments, I wondered if that pastor’s thinking is the key to their high attendance, much more than any
creative programming or fancy speakers. He sure sounds like the kind of person I’d want to spend my Sundays with.
My new book, Relentless Hope, is a collection of such stories, not all easy to read, but altogether familiar. They are the stories in our pews,
around our small groups, and in our homes. We can see these events in isolation and find our emotions and our faith dependent on the latest
development, or we can see all events as part of a larger story, one that promises to be redeemed by the One who offers to carry us through