Note: This is a narrative I’ve written to encourage wounded and hurting ministers. My purpose in writing it is for them to consider how God might comfort them by how He comforted me in a stressful time in my ministry. It was written in March of 2013 but posted in the year of 1988…
Several years ago I found myself in a difficult time in ministry. Among other things, my parents were divorcing after 32 years… one of my children had a potentially fatal disease… I was doing my doctoral work… the church was going through stressful growing pains (Building)… I was struggling with emotionally… and my family struggled as a result of my own struggles.
I had little joy as it seemed life was crushing in on me from every direction and I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt as though I had to keep up appearances since I was the pastor, but inside I was spiritually famished. I hate to admit it, but I was doing the work of the ministry in the flesh.
Then I was called into a meeting by some deacons. They told me that my ministry at the church was no longer effective (I didn’t do a good job hiding my emotional struggles.). They told me I was to find another place to serve (They gave me time to look). In that meeting I broke down in weeping.
Aside: Church members… consider that there are times your pastor needs pastoring. Consider at times he needs to be ministered to. Every now and then, put your arm around your pastor and encourage him! Maybe the best thing you can do for your pastor is change places with him and help him bear his burdens (Gal 6:1-3). Be a “Good Samaritan” for a minister of the Gospel. My guess is that those who talked with me from the previous paragraph were either not aware of my struggles or didn’t care about them (I choose to believe the former rather than the latter). I probably should have confessed to them my stresses and asked for help…
These men probably thought my emotion was because of what they asked of me, but that was the least of my struggles. My weeping was the result of the first two paragraphs chasing me constantly, that meeting was only a small straw in the big scheme of things.
After telling my wife and family of that night’s events, I decided to back up and seek God as best I knew how. The first thing I did was make a CD of worship songs that were special to me. While listening to those ten songs I would weep… laugh… praise… and worship God. Many times I’d get in my car depressed and after listening to a song or two (Or all of them), I would be refreshed in my spirit by God’s Spirit.
Along with those songs, there were messages I listened to repeatedly while driving. These were by men like Tim Keller, John Piper, John MacArthur, and others. They were messages of hope and encouragement for times of suffering.
Then, most importantly, I did a series of Bible Studies for myself (Not to preach). I used a title from somewhere: Hooks On Which I Hang My Hat. I identified seven truths that I believed at the end of the day… no matter what… that I would not question whatsoever. After each truth I added a personal application. The Seven Hooks were:
God Is Just (Ezra 9:15; Job 1-2): Satan can only do what God allows.
I would like to say that upon completing this study that I immediately found complete peace, but I didn’t. Instead peace, joy, and contentment steadily grew in me. Whenever I found myself slipping into fear or discouragement, I went back to these seven things… read the Scriptures… prayed them to God… and over time God’s comfort grew stronger.
Sometimes it was quick… sometimes it slow… but every time I was encouraged and comforted by God. To this day… over a decade later… I still rely on these truths about God, regardless of how I feel. I still listen to those songs and remember God’s faithfulness… and am comforted.
I pray that these will be of comfort to you as God has comforted me.