This summer God has been doing something in my heart. I spent most of five weeks of the summer with teens. Neighborhood Gospel Outreach and Cola Wars week was toward the beginning of the summer. Teen Bash, VBS, and Commmunity Celebration week was later in the summer. I spoke to Sr. High teens for a week at Lake Ann. I led a missions trip of 9th and 10th graders for a week to northern Michgian, and last week I spoke to Sr. High teens for a week at Camp Barakel.
During these times I taught the word of God and told the stories of God and the stories of God’s work in my life. Then, each day, I took time to listen to lots of kids tell me their stories. I would eat with the kids or I would tell them, “If you want to talk look me up this afternoon. I will have my toes in the water and we can sit on the dock and I will give you the talking stick.” Two of my daughters, Holly and Hannah spent the summer counseling at camp and they told me some of the stories of their campers. Two of my sons work with youth and they frequently tell me the stories of the teens they work with. There is one great word—one great theme that hangs over almost all of these conversations. It seems to be a main subject in almost every story: Hurt. All kids have hurts. Most kids have deep hurts. Many have devastating on-going hurt in their lives.
Last week, on Saturday night, Dan and Wes and I drove back home from Barakel into the early hours of the morning on quiet roads. Usually I would listen to a good podcast or some edifying music. Sometimes, after a week at camp I will put the songs of the week on my iPod and re-live the sweetness of worship that we experienced during the week. But Saturday night as the boys slept and the miles passed a deep burden and a clear vision formed in my heart. I could not stop seeing the faces of the young people or hearing their voices. I could not stop thinking about the Downriver—the area where we live and work—my mission field. I thought about the thousands of young people who live in a ten or fifteen-mile circle of our church, their hurts and their need for Christ.
I believe that no one gets through life without hurts. Even the greats of the Bible, who were loved of God, hurt. You can read this in the laments of the Bible. The book of Lamentations chapter three through verse 20 is a good example of this. When life hurts God has not abandoned his people. He is still faithful. When bad things are happening to those who love God, He is always up to something God. He is faithful. You can see this in Lamentations 3:21-17. Even when things are hard his mercies are new every morning. Sometimes his mercies are severe, but they are mercies form God and he is in control. When we think of this we can have hope. His compassion never fails.
When life hurts, God is there and He is faithful—he’s doing something… but will your hurts push you away from Him or into his arms. Will you get closer to God or farther away when hurt comes into your life? Will you trust God to compensate you for your hurt with a dynamic spirit or with rewards in heaven or will you be buried in bitterness and anger.
This is the message I would like to get to the thousands of young people who live within the sound of the “voice” of Evangel. When a child or a teen is drowning in hurt someone who is on solid footing needs to be there to throw them a life-preserver. When they are staggering in the dark someone needs to give them an arm to lean on and lead them out of danger. I want to lead our church in doing what needs to be done to help families. May of them are single-parent families. Thousands of them are suffocating in shame and guilt because of past failures. They don’t see any way out. Satan has conspired to bury them in guilt and shame and confuse them about the gospel. They see the church as an organization devoted to adding to their burden of guilt, not ultimately removing their guiltiness forever.
God has stirred my heart and inspired my heart to find broken hearts and introduce them to the One who can give them a new heart.
August 18, 2010