Allow God to Do What Needs to Be Done

Allow God to Do What Needs to Be Done

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


She is blind and quite hard of hearing. She has been a widow for many years and is nearly 100 years old. Her only living child, a very supportive son, died a few weeks ago, leaving her with no family member anywhere nearby. Her nearest relative, a grandson, lives in Georgia. If she did not live at Wesley Village, our United Methodist Home in Shelton, Conn., she likely would be completely on “her own.”

It was my task to tell her that her son had died unexpectedly, seemingly in the best of health. What do you say in such a circumstance? What kind of comfort is there to be offered when, in your heart, you know how devastating your news is? Especially what do you say to an agnostic that does not belie your faith, but which can be heard as something more that piety and preachiness?

In ministry with and to older adults this is no small question. On some level, experience suggests, many of us are agnostic, at least temporarily, when receiving devastating news. It is always a difficult task to witness to faithfulness at such moments, but that is part of a calling to ministry. The fact that this good woman had been an agnostic for years heightened my apprehension.

But the news was delivered. We sat for a while in utter silence as she absorbed what she had heard. Her first words were, “What am I going to do? He did everything for me? I am now totally alone.” Therein was the opening to witness to the truth of our faith, even to one that is not at all sure if any of it is true. 

“I have two things to say, my friend. You are going to do what you have always done, you are going to question, but you are going to find a way through this horrible time. You are going to do so because even though you don’t believe it now, you are not alone. You will not go down this road by yourself. I, and the rest of the staff here at Wesley Village, are here for you at any time, twenty-four seven. We love you and care for you. You can count on that promise and that certainty.” 

In that moment I believe God’s faithfulness was heard. Emmanuel—God is with us! Is not that the rock-bottom solid message of our faith? Isabel must have thought so. Because, in the midst of her disbelief and her tears, she took my hand tighter than she was already holding it, and said, “Jim, I know that. You all are always there for me and one way or another I will go on. You’re a good man and God must have sent you to me. I love you and I know you love me.”

Will she ever share my religious understanding? Will she ever give up her professed agnosticism? Who knows? But one thing is for sure; my friend is already getting back to her life one day at a time. She is actually enjoying some of those days. She knows she is loved and she knows she is not alone. God does work wonders!

The job of ministry with people of every age—to be the presence of a loving, non-judgmental God—is that simple and that demanding. Dare to forgo the preaching sometimes and just “be there in love” for a person in need. God can and will do the rest!

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2014 Rev. James Stinson