My wife had surgery recently on a Friday afternoon. It wasn’t anything major, although any time spent under the knife is always a little concerning. It was an outpatient procedure, meaning she would check-in, get prepped, have the surgery, and be on her way home in time for dinner. Easy peasy!
I was told that some of the church family was going to come sit with me during the surgery. My first thought was, That’s a nice gesture. I appreciate it, but it’s really not necessary. I’m an introvert. If I have a book and some quiet space, I’m content. However, I didn’t want to turn down their wonderfully kind gesture or balk at their care and concern for us.
As it turned out, I was really moved by their presence! That’s what it is: The Ministry of Presence, the act of showing up and being present in the moment with someone while they’re going through something. It’s the presence that says “You’re not alone in this. If you need anything, we’re here,” without ever speaking it aloud. And even though my situation wasn’t a crisis, wasn’t filled with unknowns and emotion, I was greatly comforted by their presence.
This got me thinking about why I didn’t initially see the value in it. I came up with two reasons. First, it’s not something that has been done often with me in the past, and when it was, it wasn’t done well. I would even say, there was a time in my life when I resented it. Second, the ministry of presence is not something that I have done very well in my time as a pastor. As much as I like my quiet spaces and silent reading, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when the tables are turned. I always feel like I’m supposed to say something. I’ve definitely got to grow in this area.
I write all of that to say I want you to be encouraged to take up the Ministry of Presence. You don’t need to be a theologian or have a seminary degree. You don’t need a title or a position. You need to love and have no fear of putting it into action. You must be willing to show up and, sometimes, shut up. It speaks volumes. I think of Job’s three friends who came to visit him in his suffering.
“12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” Job 2:12-13
They sat with him for a week and didn’t say a word. This is the most meaningful ministry they could do for Job, just being present. It was when they started speaking things got ugly.
Have you had someone minister to you with their presence during a time of crisis or suffering? How did you take it? Let me encourage you to be seeking out ways that you can minister with your presence.