Two short words, if only…
But behind them a world of regrets:
… if only I did not have this illness,
… if only I had a happy home life,
… if only I did not have money problems,
… if only I would not have done this wrong,
… if only we would not have had this crop failure..
Perhaps we will minister to people who share their regrets with us. We will be good listeners and in our ministry we will refer to God's forgiving love and grace. Generally, in pastoral visiting, we tend to think of God's good news of salvation in Christ. But, in pastoral visiting, we also may need to focus on the good news of God's providence. Assurances of God's loving, providential care probably deserves a more prominent place in counseling.
Believers must remember that they belong to the great Creator Father who rules all things.
• Psalm 104 honors God as Creator and Provider, whose creatures look to him for food at the proper season.
• Psalm 121 is a song of praise of God's care for his children. He watches over you, “the Lord is your shade at your right hand.”
• Psalm 33:18: The eyes of the Lord are on them and their hope is in his unfailing love.”
• Matthew 10: 28, 29 assures us that God cares for the small and the weak: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your heavenly Father.”
• 1 Peter 5: 7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
• Acts 17: 28: “For in him we live and move and have our being.”
• Proverbs 21: 1: “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, he directs it like a watercourse, wherever he pleases.”
You may visit with someone whose heart is troubled because his or her suffering stems from his or her own wrong-doing. There are no short-cuts in ministering to such a believer. But keep two foci in mind. First, the assurance of forgiveness because of Jesus' work. But also the assurance of God's providence by which he will even turn the wrong into good and use in His great plans.
Lord's Day 9 and 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism spell that out. So does Romans 8, especially verse 28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love him...”, and verse 39: “…nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Joseph's brothers could have related to that... (Genesis 50:20).