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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Tough assignments

At some point, we all have tough assignments. It's the nature of life. Maybe it's telling a friend something that might disappoint them. Or, you might be a boss who has to let an employee go or tell them they didn't get the job. I can tell you the first few times you have to break your child's bad habits by disciplining them, it is no easy task.

I was reading this afternoon the story of David and Nathan. Here's a little background for the less familiar. David is king of Israel. But he has committed an awful sin against God by sleeping with another man's wife and then having the man killed, trying to cover up his sin. Nathan is one of David's prophets and a trusted advisor. In 2 Samuel 12:1, we read this:

The Lord sent Nathan to David.

Can you imagine the butterflies in Nathan's stomach? After all, he is just a prophet and David is the king over all of Israel. With one word and no explanation, David could have Nathan executed and his family put in prison. Nathan has one of those extremely tough assignments. He must confront the king with his sin.

I thought back seven years to a phone call I received on an April morning. The nurse that day must have drawn the short straw. Can you imagine the conversations that took place that day in the hallways of that hospital? I'm sure when the bad news got out about my son's over medication, there was no rush of volunteers to pick up the phone and be the one to deliver the news. But it had to be done. Someone had to make the call.

One of the things that I'm learning in my travels is that no one relishes that assignment. Health care is no different than ministry; ministry is no different than friendship. No one wants to be the bearer of the difficult news. I guess that's why "total disclosure" has become such a hot topic among medical professionals. But it's not a new subject. Long ago, God gave us wisdom on how to handle these tough assignments. His words of wisdom go something like this:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6 NIV

The lesson Proverbs is trying to teach us is this. The successful delivery of "tough words" is not determined on the who or the how but on the strength of the relationship before the conversation takes place. Whether its ministry or parenting or health care, tough words are best delivered on the back of a relationship that has been invested in. When you and I keep short accounts with those we know--when we build trust and dependability in the long run--we will be better prepared for tough words to be said and heard the day bad news arrives.

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