The True Outcome
|Teaching a new art skill|
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I drove. I felt overwhelmed with grief over the news I’d received. One of my former youth, who had beaten the odds, overcome their trauma, found Jesus and entered into ministry themselves, had suddenly done a major U-turn. They threw it all away in the pursuit of a newly developed passion. I questioned my purpose as one great success turned into a failure. Pulling myself together, I came to our drop-in center to prepare for the 50-60 teenagers who would soon invade the space.
As I walked in, one of my interns asked if I could help them with something. Thinking it was a simple task, I agreed. It would help to get my mind off of things for a few minutes. Instead, they pulled out a notebook and asked this question:
“What are some outcomes you’ve seen in youth you’ve shared the gospel with?”
I froze. This intern wanted to hear victories. And there has been many ways in which Jesus has miraculously shown up - in dreams, transformations, softening hearts, opening doors of opportunity, teaching me more about his limitless loves, and so on. Yet in that moment, I could only see the face of the one who’d fallen away. I can only imagine how awkward it was for my poor intern when I spoke:
Your question makes sense but also makes me uncomfortable. Being with Youth Unlimited over the past 15 years, I’ve learned that with people, things rarely go according to plan and God doesn’t want me to treat them like projects to be completed or fixed. In the story of the prophet Ezekiel, God calls him with these words, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen…You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but [to your own people].. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But [these people] are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me… But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.” In other words, God called Ezekiel to be faithful regardless of the results.
Mother Teresa once said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.” My calling has always felt similar. I choose to continue regardless of the outcomes as I believe Jesus wants to use me to share his love in the midst of all situations. The true outcome has been the transformation of my own life, heart, and mind as I continue to love people who ignore, reject, hate, and mock the things I value and hold dear. Love is not dependent on outcomes. I know for many of these people, I may be the only glimpse of Jesus they have in their life and that continual, faithful love may lead to transformation much deeper than any false sense of outcomes I may construct.
Positive stories are more fun but in reality, we all face these dark days. As you read this, you may be thinking of a friend, co-worker, child, sibling, parent, or someone who has rejected the way of Jesus and is living a life that breaks your heart. I can’t help it all make sense but I can tell you that God cares for these wayward children - or he wouldn’t have told people like me to keep showing up to share his love and he wouldn’t have motivated you to invest your resources to keep me in this role. So thanks for keeping me here for 15 years. Through all the ups and downs, you have helped provide these young people with a glimpse of God’s love and faithfulness. Thank you for rejoicing with me in the victories, for weeping with me in the sorrows, and for inspiring me not to give up.
Please pray for the young adult I mentioned to find their identity in Christ, for my intern not to be overwhelmed by the difficult side of ministry, and for our organization as we are facing a shortfall of $2000 per month for my position. When shortfalls like this happen, we take it as an opportunity to reassess God’s calling and direction. Please join us as we seek discernment for the future. We are not worried; we know that no matter if the funds come in or not, we will follow him. If you have any perspective as you pray, please do not hesitate to contact me. I value your insight.
- Danny Ferguson