Truth be known, I am not sure anybody “likes” to come to Journey Ministries. Most folks are glad they came; in fact, they often choose to come again, because the experience of safety and acceptance in the presence of Jesus Christ is pretty awesome. However, I doubt there are many folks who excitedly tell their friends, “Oh boy, I get to go to Journey Ministries today!”
I am not down on our ministry or have any doubts about it whatsoever. But I am realistic and honest enough to admit that those who benefit most from a visit are the ones who are so dissatisfied with some pervading emotion, or some behaviors driven by those emotions, that they are miserable. And the discomfort is strong enough that they will explore their deepest feelings and beliefs in the presence of another human — and that simply is not fun. It takes faith to sit in a chair in my office.
Clark Whitten, the pastor of Grace Church in Longwood, FL has said this: “Have you ever noticed that everything we get from God must be received by faith? However, we can refuse any gift God desires to give. He will not force it upon us nor threaten us if we refuse it. He will, however, wait us out until our misery factor rises above our fear factor, and we decide to receive by faith!” (Pure Grace, 2012)
I really appreciate Pastor Clark’s last sentence, especially the phrase, “until our misery factor rises above our fear factor.” Maybe that is why it takes some people so long to walk into a place like Journey Ministries; the fear is still bigger than the pain. Perhaps misery is not a totally bad thing; God uses it to draw us to himself. Interestingly, it is often at the point of deepest turmoil that the work of God is most evident. I believe that is why God tells us in the Book of James that we should embrace, even be thankful for tough moments in life because those times grow our faith and lead to maturity and completeness. (James 1:2-4)
While it may be true that people in general don’t look forward to coming to JMCF, as I reflect over my ministry, I will have to concede that I recall an experience that I had never had in all my previous years of pastoral ministry.
A young lady was in the midst of her initial visit. We shared in a general way for an hour and then I started to “peel the onion.” She began to cry (which, like so many individuals, she had determined not to do) as we uncovered some deep rooted issues. She was miserable. Then, as so many times before, I simply asked Jesus if there was anything He wanted to reveal to her about the things we had exposed, some core beliefs about herself. As we waited, this woman’s faith was totally in Jesus — and He gave her a gift that she was able to receive by faith, a gift that set her free from the bondage of deception rooted in that particular memory.
Up to this point, nothing unusual. Typically a session would end at this point because of the emotional energy that is consumed working through the defenses in our minds. But what happened next is the thing I had never experienced. This young lady looked up at me and said, “That was amazing. Can we do that again?”
Not once in the last decade had anyone ever asked me in the same session to intentionally go look at another painful place. I guess for this young lady, the gift far outweighed the grief — and “round two” was as big a blessing as the first.
The Lord has so much He desires to give to His children. Perhaps this would be a good week come to Him in faith instead of running from Him in fear.
Pastor Jim Groves