I like the second definition of “impact” found in the Oxford dictionary (online):  “have a strong effect on someone or something.”  Merriam-Webster says it this way: “to impinge or make contact especially forcefully.”  This one I do not like as much because impinge generally implies a negative effect, and I am thinking of impact in a positive way.  For the same reason neither pushy nor forceful work either.  Yet somehow I am sensing that the Spirit of our God was active in this way in my life on a pretty constant basis over this past week.
He was not pushy in an overbearing way, but in the way a person will help a car to become unstuck in a snowbank (which was nearly my case on Sunday).  And, while he would never force anyone to do something, I could feel the force of his strength moving and strengthening me in some dynamic ways.  Let’s just say that, instead of sitting home and wondering what he would have me doing in his kingdom (an easy question to get stuck on in retirement), he had me interacting with more people and families than I can count.  And it all has had a major impact upon me.
Saturday it was interacting with many people at a wedding.  Sunday was a day filled with prayer as I drove home from Traverse City in what started out as snow and ice that morphed into hard rain about halfway home.  Monday I left home before 7:00 a.m., and then was constantly on the go until about 8:30 p.m.  Tuesday was childcare followed by a few different “pastor activities”.  Yesterday was a funeral and two or three “fellowship gatherings” – some with people I know, while also meeting many new people.  Today it will be childcare, family time and a couple more “pastor activities.”  Thankfully, over the weekend our planned activities currently number no more than two per day.
While weeks like this were sort of the norm in pre-retirement days, I thought the pace would be slower once I retired – and it often is.  If I had ever wondered if God had any use for me in this stage of life … or if he would simply have me wasting away on the discard pile … I think I have my answer.  I actually am back into my routine of getting up before 5:30 a.m. (most days) to take care of my body, just so that I am physically prepared for all of the joyous activities he has planned for me.  This is the kind of positive impact God is having upon me at this time.
And, while he works through each of us in different ways, I believe he seeks to have the same kind of impact upon all of us – and our lives – no matter our age or situation.  Sometimes our role is care-giver, and at other times it is care-receiver.  There are times of quiet self-reflection and prayer and others that are filled with people and nearly overwhelming activity.  There are two particular Bible passages that come to my mind … passages through which God seeks to have a positive impact upon us no matter what our age or station.
The first is from the “weeping prophet”.  The impact delivered with these words is for us to understand that, from God’s perspective (which is the only one that really counts!) the best is yet to come in our lives“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  Yes, I will be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29.11-14).  I ask you, what kind of positive impact does God seek to have upon you this day with these words?
The second passage is from the pen of one who actively and violently opposed the church in his younger days.  Then, on the road to Damascus, God changed his name and his life“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1.3-4).  Both of these men found themselves in many different uncomfortable situations (that’s what affliction is, isn’t it?).  Yet both of them not only received the kind of comfort that only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”  can give, but they also found that same God using them to have a powerful impact upon many other “afflicted people.”
In reality, it is God who is doing all the work. We are simply his messengers … his hands and feet … his lips and arms.  And – most amazingly – as he sends us to “comfort those who are in any affliction” the biggest impact we often notice is upon ourselves!  As an illustration, though I have been physically exhausted more than once this week, it has been one of the best weeks I have had since retiring in February!
Yes, the one who saves us is the “God of all comfort”, but that does not mean he wants us to spend the entirety of our lives vegging out in our recliner.  What it does mean is that he seeks to comfort us whenever we feel afflicted … or sorrowful … or stymied … or whatever way you find yourself “down” … and that, generally speaking, we are healthier – mentally, physically, and spiritually – when we are active and focused on the “afflicted” ones that he has cross our paths.  That’s just the way his impact works.
And one other little thing.  Since God is the one who is really doing all of the “impact work”, it does not really matter if we see the results of our comforting words or actions. We do them, not for praise or recognition, but because of his “impact work” in our lives.  As the persecutor said in his later years, “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3.7)  We do what we can with the gifts, people, and situations of our lives … and trust God to make the impact.