Sam Storms on Forgiveness

Here is a great piece by Sam Storms, “Forgiveness: What it Is and Isn’t.”

A good quote:

The point is that forgiveness does not mean you are to ignore that a wrong was done or that you deny that a sin was committed. Forgiveness does not mean that you close your eyes to moral atrocity and pretend that it didn’t hurt or that it really doesn’t matter whether or not the offending person is called to account for his/her offense. Neither are you being asked to diminish the gravity of the offense, or to tell others, “Oh, think nothing of it; it really wasn’t that big of a deal after all.” Forgiveness simply means that you determine in your heart to let God be the avenger. He is the judge, not you.

This is especially helpful as we deal with people who have undergone abuse and harm by loved ones or strangers. A good friend of mine was told by his church that he needed to forgive his father, who had sexually abused him for years, and move on with his life–to the point of sitting in the same pew. Forgiveness does not invite us to ignorance, but to a deeper kind of knowing that places the pain firmly into our story.

If you are engaged in caring for souls, this is a must-read and a healthy reminder.

HT: Justin Taylor

Silence is Golden

Why a blog on caring for the souls of the suffering? Why a conglomeration of everything that I can get my hands on regarding suffering?

Because those who suffer are the most likely to be harmed by the church and by those who care for souls.

There are, of course many objections to this claim. Many may point to a specific program–a divorce recovery group, an addictions recovery group, a small group for those grieving the loss of a loved one, a mentorship program for leading financially struggling families to stability. These are all good things–ministries and programs that should not be simply tossed away.

In terms of programming and budgeting, many churches and pastors would identify that they do indeed care for the suffering, thank you very much. However, what causes those who are suffering to be so often mistreated is not a programming problem in the organization, but a commitment to Gospel living in the lives of individuals.

The Gospel is built for those who are suffering (it’s built for everyone, but there are very specific applications to those who are suffering), and if we are Gospel people, we will be, too. But we are so often caught up in the victory of the Gospel, the shame and pain which purchased the Gospel, that we have no idea how to handle someone who grieves for a long time.

Those who suffer can be perceived to be lacking faith–living with pain, some say, surely is not trusting God. Those who are taking a long time to move on from a specific event from suffering–or, longer than some think they should–are often treated with skepticism instead of sincerity. Our methods of helping one another are often guilt-driven: “Well, there are millions of people who have it worse than you, so be thankful that God didn’t make you like one of them” is really not helpful to someone’s recovery. When called on by a friend in need, we often give them some kind of advice that can be summarized as “take two verses and call me in the morning.”

Perhaps, what really is our greatest crime, is that we have not clue how to be silent in the present of another’s suffering. So we multiply words and talk a lot, never really hearing what they other person is saying. In contrast, Proverbs declares that “whoever restrains his words has knowledge” (17:27) and “when words are many, transgression is not lacking” (10:19). Silence, when caring for the suffering, is to be treasured more than speech.

Yes, those who are suffering are the most likely to be harmed by the church, because we do not understand God’s purposes in suffering, and because we do not know how to perceive our own suffering in light of His providence. So, we offer blithe answers and saccharine sermons to those in pain, never actually seeking to help them.

Choose the narrow path when coming to care for the suffering: stay silent, and speak little. This is the first step toward helping.

Welcome to Caring for the Soul

Welcome to Caring for the Soul, my newest blog and writing project. For those of you who were readers of my blog Tennant Across the Pond, thanks for jumping over. For those of you who were readers of A Lengthy Letter, thanks for remembering that I even had that blog–because I barely do.

My passion is helping people process their pain and suffering in order that they can help others do the same. My mission is to shepherd the suffering well–thus, this blog.

The title is birthed out of Psalm 142:4:

Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.

This blog, and indeed my entire life, is to bring glory to Christ and to advance the Gospel through shepherding the suffering and caring for their souls. In light of this, this blog will be not only a collection of my thoughts to this end, but also a collection of others’ thoughts as well. I’ll link other blogs, sermons, articles, and anything else I can find, in order to resource others (and myself) to this end.

So read along, and thanks for stopping by.