I pray that your work in the Lord is a joy at this season and that good is being done by your efforts in the gospel.
In this month’s report, I’d like to talk about a significant part of my work that not many people know about: the personal communications I have the opportunity to engage in with individuals who contact me seeking help with private issues they feel I can assist them with.
These days, all of us who labor in the gospel spend a good deal of time dealing with emails, messages, and calls, but this is especially true in my case due to the combination of my writing and the circumstances of my private life.
(1) Writing books generates correspondence — that is simply a fact of life for every writer. But the particular nature of the writing I do generates an unusual volume of communication from readers. Because I write about spiritual growth, and do so in a very personal way, I receive a number of communications from people who have questions about their own spiritual growth, or who want to know how I have handled certain challenges in this area of my own life. These communications are not such as can be answered quickly or easily; they often require thought and prayer on my part before answering. So private communications take up a big part of my time as a teacher.
(2) Because my personal situation as a divorced person is widely known, I receive frequent communications from Christians who are undergoing some of the same difficulties. Long ago, I determined that if I could take my experience and employ that in helping others, it would put the pain that I have been through to good use, and so I am glad to be available to anyone who has questions or seeks advice about troubled marriages. But again, this is hugely time-consuming. These inquiries take more than a little time to deal with. I take each of these very seriously, and I believe that over the years I have been able to give some advice that has made a difference in a few of the outcomes. In addition, I know that I have encouraged many simply by being a sympathetic and understanding listener.
All together, these communications take up a significant portion of my time each month. When people ask me, “What do you do?” it is often hard to explain the hours that are taken up by this part of my work. Unless a person has had to deal with emails and calls of this kind, it is hard for them to understand how much energy it consumes. The time alone is considerable, but the emotional toll taken by communications of this sort is enormous. And because almost all of these communications are in strict confidence, there is no one I can even talk to about them.
I am glad to do this work, of course. Occasionally when I feel myself beginning to complain about it, I am ashamed. The truth is, it is a privilege to help people in the deeply personal way I have the opportunity to help so many of my readers. Those of us who preach pray for doors of opportunity, and here is an area where the Lord has opened many doors for me to influence others. If I couldn’t do anything else in the Lord’s work, I would be happy to do this.
I wanted to discuss this part of my work with you because it is so important to me. You support me to do the Lord’s work, and you need to know that I consider these private communications and contacts to be teaching that is as important as anything else I do. Thank you for enabling me to devote the hours I do to this special kind of work.