Present in suffering

Pastoral Care as Discipleship through Life’s Challenges

Gloria Woodland

By Jacquie Block

I approached this workshop with a sense that its content and delivery would be quite profound; Gloria did not disappoint. Her words were so rich, true and helpful that any attempt to summarize them would not do justice. So, I am intentionally not going to say anything more about the workshop – my hope is that this compels you to watch it for yourself.

Instead, I tell you a story.

I knew a young lady whose life story was often marked by a sense of being alone. Yes, she had a loving family, friends and meaningful work, but there remained a nagging sense of emptiness – of incompleteness. Thankfully, this lady grew up in a Christian home and was introduced to the church, Jesus and his Word from birth. While the feelings of loneliness still led to sadness, struggle and perhaps at moments despair, there were also many meaningful times of prayer, studying God’s Word and sweet communion of walking with other believers.

The more recent history has brought a different kind of struggle to her life and occasionally the pain felt more than her heart wanted to bear. While life continued on, at times anger would spill out, but also guilt/shame and confusion. Slowly, as the story behind the broken heart was given space to be heard, healing began to occur. At times, this allowed for more honest conversations with God about the issues. What in all of this was her part to own?

One day, she was invited by a friend to speak her words of anger toward God. Was this possible? What would people think? What would God think? But with the knowledge she would be in the company of many of the ancient psalmists, these words came out: “Why have you abandoned me God? Why have you left me alone? For how long will I suffer in this loneliness?”

Surprisingly, what came was a sense of release. Somehow, the feelings seemed more distant – still there, but not so suffocating. The words floating unconsciously in the mind and heart finally came out. And God was still present.

That ending would be beautiful enough in itself. But there remains one more piece to this story. A few days after speaking out the lament, these sweet and true words came to mind:

You did not abandon me,
Nor leave me alone,
You gave me space to be myself,
I offer this self back to you.

Jacqui Block.jpg—Jacqueline Block is chair of the SKMB Development Leadership Team (DLT). She job-shares the role as Saskatchewan regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with her husband Rick. Along with their two children, they make Saskatoon their home.

Note: EQUIP plenaries and workshops will be available here.