Dr. Matthew D. Kim, an author and professor at Gordon-Conwell, sits down with Carey Nieuwhof this week on ChurchPulse Weekly to talk about preaching to people in pain. Kim shares how he has dealt with grief and pain in his own life, practical ways to connect biblical narratives with the pain people are feeling and what to do with suffering and unanswered prayer.
On Unanswered Prayers for Healing
Dr. Kim shares how he has dealt with unanswered prayers for healing in his own life after walking through eight years of chronic dizziness from a concussion.
Reflecting on his experience, Kim says, “God is slowing me down, and He’s helping me to realize that it’s not just about me going out and doing things. Sometimes, He just wants me to be still.”
He notes, “What it has produced in me is this ability to listen to people more. I used to be very goal-oriented—type A—and I didn’t want to be bothered […] What this injury and long-term concussion has taught me is that I need to be able to just sit with people. It’s not just about accomplishing another task—it’s about getting to know another person’s story.”
Kim encourages pastors to ask, “How do we take the time to explore and hear other people’s stories and learn about what’s going on in their lives [in ways] that are not readily available to us just by looking at someone?”
On Leaning into Community
Pain is often most difficult to handle when one is having to bear it alone. According to Barna research from early 2020, about third of U.S. adults feels lonely at least once each day, and a majority feels lonely each week. Furthermore, three in five Americans say the feelings of loneliness range anywhere from intense to unbearably painful for them.
Kim believes leaning into community is an essential part of processing pain, noting, “As a Christian, we often think that we’re doing this alone and we’re isolated […] We feel like we’re the only ones going through this kind of suffering, and a lot of times when we go to church, we put on our best face and act like everything’s fine.”
He reminds leaders, “Every person who walks into the church, or even views online, is going through something. […] We’re all broken, we’re all going through something, and how can the community of Christians come together in this process?”
On Preaching About Pain
As pastors shepherd those in pain, Kim encourages them to look to the Bible for narratives of how people endured and walked through suffering.
“There are people in scripture that we can connect with,” he reflects. “Before I was diagnosed with glaucoma, I didn’t recognize that these are real issues.”
Kim continues, “I’ve realized that when I look at the Gospels, or look anywhere in scripture, people are suffering. That’s just part of life. That’s part of the human condition in a fallen world.”
He concludes, “There are some things that are going to happen and God’s going to permit it, and we don’t understand why, but he’s with us […] There are crises and he is with us, and he doesn’t abandon us. In my good moments, I can say that I look to the scriptures and they comfort me.”
About the Research
The Loneliness Epidemic data: Barna Group conducted this online survey among 1,003 U.S. adults from February 18 to March 2, 2020. The quota sampled is representative by age, gender, race / ethnicity, education and region.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021