The Power of Coming Alongside
A military wife, Abby (not her real name), came to see me for help with her anger. She began our hour angry at her husband and his commanding officer for something the officer had said about her at a Christmas party in front of a group of people. Her husband, feeling caught in the middle, said nothing.
Forty-five minutes into our hour meeting, she was now angry at God and at me. Really angry. She began to rant about me and then directed her venom at God. She concluded our time suggesting that God was evil in sending his son to die for mankind.
“I have two boys” she said in her pain, “and I would NEVER give one of my sons for anyone! I think that’s cruel!”
I suddenly realized that if a lightning bolt crashed through the ceiling of my office, my desk chair was too close to hers. As she continued her rant, my mind went silently into the following monologue with God:
“You’re not going to send a lightning bolt into this office, are you?”
“How is it that you can love this woman even when she spits on what Jesus did, and what you did?”
As I continued listening to her, it occurred to me that this same enmity that I was hearing from her also resides in me and continued my internal dialogue with God.
“How is it that you can love seven billion people who all have this evil lurking within us?”
“It must be very lonely being God,” I thought, though at the same time realizing this is never true of God given He is a community of Three yet One. “But still, how do you deal with billions of unmet longings?”
She was livid when she left, saying she’d been a fool to think I could help her. Unsurprisingly, she did not attend church the next Sunday. Part of me was relieved.
On Tuesday of that week, the Lord prompted me to call her. “Can’t I go get all my teeth removed without anesthesia, instead?”
I called her. “I know the last two weeks have been very hard, and I just called to see how you were doing.”
She vented some more. I listened.
“I can understand how you’d feel that way”, I offered. “I’m so sorry.” She said she was not sure if she could forgive me for what I said, but thanked me for calling her.
A week later, I was prompted to call her again. “I know this has been a hard season. I just wanted to see how you were doing.” Less venting, but still guarded.
After a third Tuesday call, she came back to church. “I’m very glad to see you. I had hoped I’d see you again.”
She started coming to church again. Several months later, she became a Christian.
At one point during a conversation, she said to me, “I always assumed I was a Christian until the last few weeks exposed this deep anger and rebellion in me. For the first time, I became ashamed of the way I had treated you, and I was dumb-founded at how you treated me in the face of my cruelty toward you.”
Pondering all this, I was struck by the beauty of God’s unfolding Larger Story. Abby did not come to Christ because of my “counseling knowledge.” Instead, the power of coming alongside her, remaining present amidst her anger with an undemanding love, allowed the Spirit to reveal her ugliness, and thus her need for Jesus Christ.
By: Pastor Seth Gatchell