For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in . . . ~ Matthew 25:35
READING: Matthew 25: 31-46
Loneliness can be a crushing burden to bear. But, in a curious way, our painful loneliness can uniquely prepare us to become effective church planters. It gives us deep empathy for the strangers who tentatively attend our church services for the first time or for folks in our community who are going through transitions of their own and, thus, are more open to the gospel message.
Isn’t God good? He doesn’t waste our pain, especially not this pain. God graciously allows us to go through the experience of moving to a new community, of getting lost on our first field trip to the new market, of feeling nervous or shy the first time we attend a new church, of sitting at a social event while people ignore us and talk only with their friends, and of desperately missing the loved ones we left behind.
Then, lo and behold, we start a church and run into many lonely people just like us. Those displaced people are usually the ones most receptive to our new project, precisely because they haven’t already locked in with their own group of friends or their own full social calendar.
It’s astonishing how quickly a growing church can become ingrown and inwardly focused. Even brand new church plants aren’t immune from this temptation to exclude or ignore the strangers in our midst. Thank God for allowing us to know firsthand the excruciating pain of loneliness so we can set a good example by our warm welcome of visitors.
Dear Lord, Thank You for redeeming my loneliness. Help me to recognize Your sacred presence hidden within the face of every stranger I welcome. Amen.
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