"I have both the opportunity and the challenge of conveying to you the heart of Christian Counselling Services. That is not an easy task. I have often pondered how I paint a "still portrait" or a "snapshot in time" of what is in reality a fast paced, real-time life experience of what occurs day in and day out at Christian Counselling Services.
Thus far in my life, I have had the opportunity to travel to over 20 countries in the world! One of the first overseas trips this homegrown Saskatchewan girl made was to Southeast Asia – you can't get much different from prairie life than landing in Bangkok, Thailand at the age of 21 years old!
I lived in Thailand for nearly one year working in a private school teaching English. One image that struck me as I walked down the streets of Bangkok was the sight of massive state-of the art skyscrapers reaching as far as the eye could see into the sky. And often right beside this work of art would be a ragtag collection of tiny shanty houses made of cardboard boxes, scraps of metal, and broken bits of wood. And usually, in the midst of these small camps there would be families huddled together around a small fire. As a young prairie girl – still wet behind the ears – I had never seen such a sharp contrast between rich and poor.
I continued my travels to countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. And in every part of the world I went, my eyes were drawn to this contrast between rich and poor that had been awakened in me in Bangkok. I don't know why I had not seen this same contrast in Canada before I left – maybe I was too young, too naïve – maybe I needed to see the world and have my eyes opened. But returning home to Saskatoon after nearly 5 years of living overseas, my eyes were opened to see this same contrast right here in Saskatoon.
But there was also another life lesson I was exposed to in my world travels. No matter where I went, no matter who I saw: rich or poor, educated or not, haves or have-nots: I have learned there is one great equalizer in life and that is: tragedy. When tragedy strikes our lives – the loss of a child, a deep betrayal by someone we thought we could trust, a sudden accident – it doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor, educated or not – searing pain stops all of us in our tracks and leaves us wondering where to turn next.
In the Bible, the book of Job tells the story of a wealthy man. He is described as the wealthiest man in the world at the time. And in the blink of an eye, he loses it all: his wealth is swept away, his family is killed, his reputation is questioned, his friends abandon him.
Job comes face-to-face with the most human, and yet most difficult questions in life: why do pain, suffering and heartache have to happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? And where is God when life as we know it, is falling apart? In the book of Job, Chapter 36, it says "Those who suffer, God delivers in their suffering. God speaks to them in their affliction. He woos them from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction".
What a beautiful picture that is of the gifts that come to us through suffering. Yes, you heard me correctly: the gifts that come through suffering. Notice "when" God delivers His people according to this passage from the Book of Job: in their suffering. Our seasons of pain bring us to a place of hearing God like never before.
C.S. Lewis described it well when he said "God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain." This is a beautiful reminder that in the pain, there is purpose; that in suffering, a very sacred process is occurring. And for any of you who have faced seasons of suffering you know how true that is – that God comes very close during those painful moments to bring comfort and hope when all seems lost.
And this sacred experience is what happens moment by moment behind closed doors at Christian Counselling Services, where tragedy is often the great equalizer that brings CEO's of companies, business people, pastors and ministry workers, newcomers to Canada, First Nations peoples, stay-at-home moms, and many others from all walks of life to a safe haven like Christian Counselling Services.
Earlier this year, I met with a business man who asked me point blank "What does success look like at Christian Counselling Services?" And as I sat across the table from him – many answers went through my mind. My first thought was: "I'm talking to a business man here – he probably wants numbers". And so, all these statistics came to mind:
All these things ran through my mind in response to his question. And these are all important indicators of success.
But none of these truly did justice to the man's question because they do not paint a full and complete reflection of what success looks like at CCS.
The true image of success is the depressed post-partum mother who comes for a session and leaves with a renewed sense of hope in her heart to face another day; it's a couple on the verge of separation or divorce because they have lost the spark of love that first drew them together and yet leave that counselling session agreeing to lay down their weapons and remember that they are on the same team again; it's the parent whose child's life ended in this world too soon that finds the courage to hope for a better tomorrow because they have someone who understands their grief and pain; and it's the person whose life is transformed by the light and love of salvation in Jesus Christ, who has come to understand the love of God more deeply through a caring Christian counsellor.
This is what success looks like at Christian Counselling Services: the countless faces of men, women, and children living in our city, our communities, our neighborhoods and working at our companies and businesses whose daily lives are more bearable and have more hope in their hearts for better days on the horizon.