Good Friday morning ...
When one reaches the age I have attained, a thought begins to swell from some inner place and materializes in the mind in the form of a question: What difference has my life made?
It's not a haunting question in the sense that it hangs around every day, troubling your spirit while prodding for you to deal with it. It's not a nagging sort of question that won't go away despite your efforts to disregard it. It just pops up every so often, mostly when I am not occupied with something and always when I am alone.
So, approaching seventy-three years old, what difference has my life made?
In reflecting on this question, I have thought about the times in my ministry when I have counseled pregnant teenaged girls to choose life instead of abortion ... when I have talked an emotionally distraught, suicidal person "off the ledge" ... when I have been at the scene of suicides to cover a family with God's loving grace ... when I have been with families in Intensive Care Units assisting in making end-of-life decisions for a loved one ... when I have been at the bedside of dying members ushering them from this life to the next ... when I have been with families in neo-natal units praying over and baptizing a desperately weak newborn clinging to life ... and in some instances, still-born.
Have these things made a difference? I like to think so ... but I'm not at all certain they get to the heart of the question.
I have thought about the many couples I have counseled on the brink of divorce ... of those I have counseled in preparation for marriage ... of the many troubled parents at wits end with rebellious adolescents who have come for counsel ... of the individuals who come with insurmountable concerns over health issues, loss of employment, financial failure, or confessions of infidelity.
Surely, dealing with these issues and providing some guidance has made a difference. But I am not at all certain.
I have thought about the blessed occasions of weddings, baptisms, confirmations, private communions in which I have participated over the past 42 years and I have thought, "Wow! What a privilege to have been part of those mile-stone events!" For sure, overseeing these occasions has made a difference!
I have thought about the many trips I have made to East Africa over the past 18 years ... about the relationships built with Maasai Christians ... about the counsel, encouragement and mentoring offered to men of faith to become Evangelists ... about the support offered to Bible students in becoming pastors ... about the deep relationships with Dr. Steve and his family in the Tanzanian bush ... about the work of building, refurbishing, remodeling medical clinics, churches, school classrooms and even an earthen dam ... and about the 100 plus youth and adults who have participated on one of those teams.
I want to think that these efforts have made some difference, some impact, some blessing ... however insignificant.
I have spent fifty years as the husband of one wife, fathered and raised four children to adulthood, to gainful occupations, to wholesome marriages and to the making of me a grandfather twelve times over. Certainly, efforts in these relationships have mattered!
But have they? Has any of it really mattered? Has any of it really made a difference?
In all these instances, I am sure lives were changed, decisions were made, courses were altered, new paths were discovered. I am certain in some cases joy was restored, peace was found, contentment was realized, wishful thinking became reality. I can be sure in some cases marriages were healed, relationships restored, and even lives were saved.
But what real difference did it make?
For those who were impacted, it made a big difference, I am sure. For some, the difference was momentary ... for others, it was a big deal then and may still have lasting impact to this day.
But, in the end ... when all is said and done ... did it make a difference?
I am reminded of several Bible verses that help put all of this in perspective.
The psalmist wrote: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." [Psalm 127:1]
Jesus said, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ [Matthew 25:40]
Paul wrote: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." [Colossians 3:17]
And the Teacher wrote at the end of Ecclesiastes: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." [Ecclesiastes 12:13-14]
In the end, I am blessed to know that God uses all good works done in His name for the good and well-being of His people. It is not necessary to know what difference anything we do on this earth will make ... only that we do it in the name of the Lord and for His glory. We are His ambassadors, Jesus' hands and feet, the means by which He accomplishes His will in a broken world. And thankful we must be for His gracious forgiveness of the every-day mistakes and failures we encounter ... even in our desperate attempts to do what is right. In the end, God is blessed because He makes our endeavors a blessing. In His perfect will, He fashions good out of our blunders and forgives our shortcomings, sins and failures.
In the end, the difference anything makes is important only to God. Our challenge is to be faithful.
Have a blessed weekend in the Lord ... faithful to Him and His call upon your life ...