Teaching, cleaning, painting, singing… life is busy in the body of Christ. But what about when it isn’t? What about when you can’t teach and you can’t clean? You’re too weary to paint and you’re too empty to sing?
I think we generally find it easy enough to minister in the body. We are part of the family and we expect to do our part. It’s easy enough being the biceps of the body, but what about when you’re the broken arm?
The humility of helplessness
There are seasons in our lives when we cannot minister to others as much as we’d like. There can be many reasons for this:
- We may be physically ill.
- We may be mentally or emotionally unable to function.
- We may be in all out warfare with our own sinful desires.
- We may be legitimately overworked in other areas.
- We may be seeking to address some sinful habits in our lives.
- We may be facing a trial that is threatening to overwhelm us.
There is something deeply humbling about meeting with the body and not ministering to others but instead letting others minister to us. So humbling, in fact, that sometimes we refuse to do it.
The frustrating patient
It’s a classic scenario. The teenage boy with a broken arm who’s climbing trees and playing sport. Mum keeps telling him he’s got to go easy on the arm, but he just can’t slow down.
When ministry is pride
To refuse to admit our weakness in moments of helplessness is pride. To insist on carrying on meeting the needs of others while avoiding the help of the body is to fail to admit our own need for the ministry of God’s grace through the body.
In other words, to focus on ministering when we should be focusing on our relationship with God is a deep offence against God.
- It is a practical denial of the gospel which rests on our admission of helplessness.
- It is a response of pride that avoids admitting weakness and helplessness.
- Worst of all, it assumes that Christianity is about what we do for God instead of what God has done for us.
Can helpless people minister?
I am not suggesting that helpless people shouldn’t minister. If helpless people couldn’t minister, Christians couldn’t minister because admitting our helplessness is the foundation of gospel living.
What I am saying is that there are seasons of life when we should probably step out of our role as creche worker or usher or teacher for a time. There are seasons when we should not, or cannot, minister as we would like to.
In those times, our hearts may condemn us. We may feel guilty for not doing as much as we used to. But we need to see the deep-seated pride that drives that thinking. We need to recognise that if God has put us in a place of helplessness for a time, that healing will come as we allow the body to minister to us in our need.
By and by, the broken arm will heal. And we will once again do the heavy lifting for a while.