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Make a Difference - Week 5 - Rebecca Trefz: The crucible of pain and hope

By: Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Dakotas Conference director of ministries

Greetings in the name of Christ!  I’m Reverend Rebecca Trefz, the Director of Ministries for the Dakotas Conference.  This week, we are continuing our journey through Lent and our quest to do as our book title suggests—Make a Difference by following our passion and finding the place God is calling us to serve.

Thus far in our study, the author, Rev. James Harnish, has challenged us to awaken to our purpose, to listen for God’s voice and be faithful to answering the call, and to not try and go it alone but rather be encouraged and strengthened by other Jesus followers who share the journey with us. 

But this week, Rev. Harnish reminds us of a tough reality.  The road of following Jesus and seeking to make a difference in this world is not always an easy one to walk.  Sometimes the places God calls us to are settings of pain, suffering or injustice that is so deeply entrenched that the idea of making any sort of difference—of finding light let alone being light—seems impossible. 

And yet it is in these moments that I believe we can draw strength from the words of Paul in Romans 5—“We rejoice in our sufferings, for we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope.  And hope will not disappoint us for God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

As much as I draw strength from these words, I also realize they sound more than a little countercultural.  “Rejoice in our sufferings?” Not exactly the message we hear on a daily basis.  Rather than rejoice in our sufferings, the world around us tells us to seek pleasure at all costs, numb or self-medicate any pain away, and distract ourselves from what seems to be a stream of endless suffering around the world and in our own communities.  And even our own human natures wrestle with the vulnerability we feel when situations—especially difficult, painful ones—seem beyond our control…beyond our “fixing”…whether it’s in the world around us or in or own families. 

And yet as followers of Jesus we are called to a different way of being. Instead of choosing disconnection or denial when faced with the brokenness we see in the world, we embrace the call to “lean in” to the discomfort, to come alongside those who are suffering and to even be courageous enough to allow God to heal and work on our own darkness so that we can be brave enough to walk through the darkness with others.

You know, I recently re-watched the movie, “Wonder Woman.”  And although it was the action scenes that got me all pumped up, it was her quote at the end of the movie that truly struck me.  She says, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves - something no hero will ever defeat. I've touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they'll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give... for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever.”

The truth is we don’t need to have super powers to fulfill our mission—to stand in the dark places and look for light—to not run from the pains or hurts of this world or of our brothers and sisters around the globe and in our back yard, but rather to hold their hands and join their voices and humbly walk beside them in love.

What we need is the reminder that we serve in the name of the risen Savior—the one who conquers death, redeems suffering and shows us that darkness does not have the final word.  When we are armed with that truth and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can not only rejoice in our sufferings but we can also allow ourselves to be transformed through these difficult points in the journey as we offer our lives to bring hope and to make a difference in this world.

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Join us this Lent.  Click here for ideas on how to join the study.  The videos are posted here. Tell the stories of what happens as you engage in the practices outlined by posting on social media with the hashtag #DakotasMakeaDifference! 


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