The Ministry of Presence
The First Human Crisis
If you began reading at Genesis 1:1 and continued until you came to the first crisis in human history, where would you stop? Many people would stop at Genesis 3 that describes The Fall of mankind. That’s understandable – to say that The Fall was a crisis would be a huge understatement.
But it wasn’t the first.
When God created the world and all that is in it, the word that is used repeatedly to describe the Creator’s handiwork is the word “good.” He created light and said it was “good.” He created the land and the sea and said it was “good.” He created the vegetation, trees, and plants and said it was “good.” He created the fish, birds, and animals and said it was “good.” The creation was “good.” In fact, Genesis 1:31 tells us it was “very good.”
The first human crisis is in Genesis 2 with the creation of Adam and God noted that he was alone. “It is NOT GOOD,” the Creator said (v. 18; emphasis added). The first time something was said to be “not good” was in reference to the aloneness of Adam.
Keep in mind that this was before sin entered into the world.
- Adam lived in a perfect world
- Adam possessed everything
- Adam had an exalted position
- Adam was in perfect relationship with God
Yet God said, “It is not good” – in relationship with God, but alone. His immediate solution was to provide a companion for Adam. Later we see that God provided three means of confronting aloneness:
Each of us was created with the need for meaningful relationships – first with God through faith in Christ, and secondly with others. Never is the need for others and the crisis of being alone so acute than in times of grief and mourning. When someone loved has died, the one thing most needed by the bereaved and most easily provided by thoughtful caregivers is the ministry of presence.
After his great day at Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah suffered an emotional, mental, and spiritual collapse at the threats of Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Under a juniper tree in the wilderness he prayed to die. Totally spent, physically exhausted, spiritually confused, and emotionally overwhelmed, he could find no purpose for the present and no hope for the future.
God patiently cared for His beleaguered servant first by sending an angel to feed him and provide him with rest (vv. 5-7). When he was strengthened, God revealed Himself to Elijah at Mt. Horeb – He restored him with his presence. But the ministry of presence had only begun – God also provided him with a companion whose name was Elisha (v. 19)
The Apostle Paul endured great afflictions and trouble when he first went to Macedonia. He described his circumstances to the Corinthian believers:
For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus … (2 Cor. 7:5-6).
God cared for his depressed servant by sending him a friend – Titus. Paul goes on to say that by Titus’ coming he was “encouraged” (v. 18). Once again we see the ministry of presence at work.
The power of companionship is clearly seen in this passage from The Preacher:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecc. 4:9-12)
It is noteworthy that when Jesus sent out the seventy disciples to minister to Israel’s lost sheep, He sent them out “two by two” (Luke 10:1).
A little girl was awakened from a nightmare and began to cry for her parents. Her father, not wanting to get out of bed, tried to pacify her by saying, “Honey, it’s okay; God is in there with you.” The little girl replied, “I know He is, but I need someone with flesh.”
We learn from the Creation account that it was not good for Adam to be alone, even while living in paradise and in perfect relationship with God. We recognize our need for intimacy with God and meaningful relationships with others. Finally, the biblical stories of Elijah and Paul, along with the instructions of The Preacher, teach us the significance of the ministry of presence.
During times of grief and mourning God graciously extends His presence to the bereaved through the Holy Spirit. But He also extends healing grace through a “Titus” – a friend and companion who provides comfort and encouragement simply by “coming.”
Never Underestimate the Power of Presence
When people are hurting, one of the things they need the most is to know that someone cares. The ministry of presence is simply that – your presence. It’s not your theological insights, creative answers, profound philosophy, wit, or clever sayings that comfort.
Remember: it is your presence, not your words that comfort the most. So be there – go their house, the Wake, the funeral service. If you can’t be physically present, call – stay in touch. Don’t worry about saying the right thing. Just be there – and be quiet. And be there after the funeral when all the Lasagna has been eaten and everybody else has gone their way.
You don’t have to show off – just show up.