“Living in the trenches” is a phrase commonly thrown around in the chapel by our chaplains, but more often than not they are not talking about literal trenches, which are holes dug to protect soldiers in the midst of combat, even though real combat is close to all of our thoughts these days. No, they are talking about the emotional and spiritual trenches where we do our jobs. Those are filled with scenes of combat, of wounded warriors bleeding, hiding, and trying to survive. Places of pain where we are called to work, not unlike army medics, called to the trenches to stop the bleeding, to inspire courage, to point them to the Great Physician. It’s those places that make youth ministry not for the faint of heart, not for those who get queasy at the sight of blood. Those in the trenches include kids experiencing abuse of all kinds, alcoholism in the family, neglect, anger, intense loneliness, grief, fear, unplanned pregnancy, loss of friends, parent deployment, addiction, heartbreak, divorce, physical illnesses…the list goes on, and I can attach at least one name to each of those situations.
It’s weird, but it’s in the trenches where Jesus shows up. The guy who could have anything he wants, could wipe us out to keep us from causing issues in His world, decides instead to get messy in the dirt of the trenches of life. He comes in to live amongst the pain, which seems like a crazy place for a God to be. Wouldn’t he rather be sitting on a throne somewhere, watching us struggle like Saving Private Ryan on a divine 1,000 inch 3D plasma TV? No, he chooses to get dirty. He chooses to work in and through us who have also been called to that place, so that we’re not working on our own, in our own power. We have the God of the universe alongside us, who is so much more capable of healing the deepest wounds of his children, whom I love as if they were my own. I can’t imagine how much the One who created them loves them.
Don’t give up guys. I’m talking to youth leaders and students alike. Don’t forget who is in the trenches with you. You are not alone.
“But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17)