Life Is Long

Can we just be honest and admit something really quick? As youth workers, we love all of our students equally, but we love some more than others.

It’s okay. No one’s looking. You can just admit it. Sometimes God puts certain students in our pathway and puts it on our heart to do for that one student what we wish we had the capacity to do for all of the others.

Years ago, my wife and I had a middle school student like that in our lives. They had a difficult home life. They’d developed some unhealthy core beliefs about themselves, others, and the way life works, and that displayed itself in a number of destructive ways. My wife and I did everything we felt we could for that student over the course of the following three years, but there came a point where we had to back away from that student’s family in order to protect our own.

And you know what? Even though we knew we’d done everything we could to reorient that kid’s life, we felt a twinge of guilt. We felt just a hint of failure. We felt the burden of things not turning out the way we hoped.

Have you ever been there?

If you’ve been in student ministry for a while, you probably have.

But after a nearly three-year pause on that relationship, God in His sovereignty has recently brought this kid (now young adult) back into our lives. And as we’ve worked with our amazing church to try to provide them a stable environment from which they can build a better future if they so choose, we’ve been reminded by God’s Spirit that life is long.

I know the saying is that “life is short,” and that’s true. But, in a different sense, life is also long, and the path is weird. When we broke contact three years ago, we wondered if that was the end of that story. But it wasn’t. Because God is sovereign, and sometimes He likes to take the slow train toward redemption and transformation.

I want you to remember that as you carry out the work of ministry. Sometimes you’re going to pour everything you have into a kid and see almost zero fruit, and you’ll be tempted to allow the enemy to sneak in and whisper lies to you about your calling, your gifting, and the nature of the God you serve. I just want you to remember that life is long, God is sovereign, and for some people the path toward redemption is slow—a lot slower than we’d like it to be.

The story with the former student we love is far from over. It remains to be seen whether or not this attempt to help them find stability during their transition to adulthood is going to work out the way we hope. But in this absolutely exhausting season of pouring out and rallying our church behind this person, we’ve seen God’s grace and sovereignty on display.

I hope you’ll see it on display in your own ministry, and if you already have, share your story in the comments!

Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at mike@gshades.org
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