Passion or Pain: What Do You Notice?

by Alvin Reid

Over the next few days, listen to the things people you meet talk about. We converse regularly—either in serious conversations or in casual chitchat—about our pain or our passion.

In fact, we live our lives on a continuum between passion or pain. It could be extreme or mild: someone just learned the doctor’s tests revealed cancer. That’s painful news.

Or, a couple just discovered they are having their first child. That’s something to be passionate about!

It could be something less life-changing, from a flat tire on the one hand to a friendly chat with a friend on the other. In such conversations, we can easily talk about Christ. The good news intersects life wherever we are on the journey.

I fly a lot. I recently got on an airplane and took my typical aisle seat, this time in the very back row.

A young lady named Alex sat next to me. Her bag full of tennis rackets revealed her role on her school’s tennis team and thus her reason for traveling. A lot of my trips have collegiate athletes on them because of all the universities in our area.

She told me she was a freshman at a major college in the Midwest, returning home from a tennis tournament. We chatted a bit and I told her I was a professor and a minister who worked with young people like her. She told me her major was communication, focusing on using technology to communicate information. I asked her a question I love to ask young people, “If you were not limited by money or geography, where would you go and what would you do?”

She replied immediately. “I’d work for Pixar,” she said with a smile.

“Why Pixar?” I asked.

“They are the best!” she replied.

We had a natural, not forced, conversation, moving from her passion for excellence in her career (I shared a similar passion for teaching) to the gospel. I shared how scripture teaches God created us to worship, and with a desire to do something that matters.

That’s why we both had a passion to do something with our lives. She grew up in church and admitted to losing her focus on spiritual things after arriving at college. I told her she was pathetic and had to get right with God or she would burn.

Okay, I didn’t say that, although I urged her to yield all her life to Jesus. She didn’t trust Christ, but she admitted her need and thanked me for taking time to help her see how she had lost her way. One of the simplest ways to introduce Jesus naturally in a conversation grows out of talking about one’s passion.

Similarly, on a mission trip I spoke through a pastor who served as my interpreter to young men in the settlements of Cape Town, South Africa. You could see the brokenness in the razor wire and walled-in homes. These young men spoke of the brokenness in their community from drugs and crime. We talked about how no one wants to raise a family in those conditions, and how such brokenness makes us seek a better way. From our discussion of brokenness, I moved from the effects of sin back to God’s plan in

Creation. We talked about how reasons such as brokenness and pain bother us so much because we know there has to be something better. I told them this was true, for God had made the world beautiful and without the brokenness we now face. However, sin had brought death, disease, judgment, and pain.

Then, I share with them how Jesus came to offer hope in the face of such a hopeless world. We talked of his work on the cross, and how he could change them through faith to see a more beautiful world, and have hope for a better world in the resurrection.

I’m sure it was through the more excellent interpretation of the pastor, but all seven of those young men trusted Christ that day. In one conversation, we were able to give context to the brokenness around them and hope beyond their circumstances. That’s what the gospel can do.

Do you know someone who needs Christ for whom you are concerned who currently faces pain, or whose life is focused on brokenness? We can identify with the reality of brokenness while also offering the hope in Christ. Do you know a friend who is at a point of joy or passion over recent events? You can share with them the joy you have in Jesus, and how he made us to live for something more than survival.

I don’t have to know you to know two things about you. First, up to this point your life has not turned out just like you thought it would, right? Second, I know you want your life to matter. There is a passion to do something more than just eat, breathe, sleep, and die. The dissatisfaction with aspects of life and the hope for more  offer opportunities to converse with others.

The young professionals we’ve seen come to faith in our church almost without exception were helped to Christ by seeing how the story of the gospel connects with their actual life, whether facing pain or hoping for something more. Begin to notice people’s pain or passion, and learn to show them Christ where they are.


[Note: Excerpted from Alvin L. Reid, Sharing Jesus {Without Freaking Out} Broadman & Holman, 2017).]

Alvin L. Reid (@alvinreid) is senior professor of evangelism and student ministry and Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students. He loves encouraging the younger generation to live for Jesus. Learn more: