by gary-foote on April 25, 2011

Have you ever felt defeated? Well, I’m guessing if you are working in ministry that you have. Over the years that I’ve worked in Catholic youth ministry I’ve come home many a night feeling like I failed. Did the teens understand what I was trying to get across? Was the volunteer team welcoming to those who were coming for the first time? Will Fr. So-and-so ever come back again even though the teens were disrespectful? How many phone calls will I get tomorrow from parents because our ice-breaker went horribly awry and their child went home with peanut butter in their hair? Doubts and questions have kept me up into the early hours of the morning until I was finally so tired that all I could do was sleep.

I think that sometimes the hard thing to remember about working in ministry is that feeling defeated is very different from actual defeat. Although I’ve often times felt defeated, I cannot tell you once where I actually experienced defeat. Why? Well, for some reason much too difficult for me to understand (I’d say the typical political comment here about it being above my pay scale, but let’s be honest, working in ministry pretty much everything is above my pay scale) God has chosen to be a God of the “11th hour.” At the Wedding at Cana, the persons in charge of the beverages properly felt defeated by not having enough wine, but at the last moment Jesus changed the water into wine and they never experienced actual defeat. As the hemorrhaging woman went through life with a very difficult and seemingly incurable problem I’m sure she felt defeated, but ultimately she did not experience defeat because Jesus healed her. On the cross, all that the Apostles and disciples of Jesus believed in was put to death leaving them to feel defeated. But, through the incredible power of the Resurrection they were not defeated. Even after the Resurrection this struggle between feeling defeated and actually being defeated continued, “When they (the Apostles) heard that He was alive and had been seen by her (Mary Magdalene), they did not believe”(Mark 16:11).  I’m sure that Mary Magdalene was feeling defeated as she proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead and the Apostles did not believe her, but then Jesus appeared to all of them sparing her from defeat.

Whether you are leading a Catholic youth retreat, taking your teens to listen to a Catholic youth speaker, or just meeting with them at a youth night and things don’t go too well, know that you are not defeated. We cannot always see what God is doing. A wonderful priest friend of mine would often say to me, “Gary, you cannot see Heaven’s side.” God has a greater plan than we can imagine. Our job is to remain focused and attentive to that plan while remaining faithful to Him.  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.” I think that part of the wisdom in her words is that we might not really be able to gauge what success really looks like because we don’t always see the whole picture. But when we remain faithful we allow ourselves to be the instrument of God with which He can accomplish great things. Know that even when you feel defeated it doesn’t mean that you are actually the victim of defeat. Let God be the judge of that. I’ve never seen Him let defeat be triumphant and I have feeling that He might keep it that way. Keep praying, keep asking for God’s mercy, and keep hope. God can and will do great things.

In Christ,

Gary Foote


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