I am helped consistently by good friends around me both in and out of pastoral ministry. They refine and help me in many ways. There’s a groaning to pastoral ministry that is difficult for those who aren’t in it to see. Each week there are countless behind the scenes things that are happening in the lives of people and pastors are often caught up in this work (especially in the smaller to mid-size churches where a great number of pastors serve).
I was thinking last week about suffering and some situations that people I know are dealing with. It was over lunch with one of my elders and it had to do with somberly thinking about people, their situations and sufferings. I don’t wish ill or suffering upon any in the body I’m privileged to serve, but I consistently try to think and prepare myself for the suffering that may come. If tragedy would strike a family, for instance, they need a pastor who isn’t crushed by this, but one who is sorrowful, yet rejoicing. So, there’s a discipline to this.
You could say that pastors who serve well in those moments have prepared themselves for those moments. God’s grace is sufficient for all kinds of situations. What this means, practically, is working through some of these things emotionally when things don’t appear to be going “bad.” This is the heaviness or burden that some pastors feel. So, here it is principle form: pastors are to be trailblazers into suffering. We work through the emotions, hurt, and raw reality that may very well come in the hard situations. By doing this, we’ve already been there and done that (emotionally, at least).
One passage that helped me was thinking of Daniel’s three friends when confronted by the prospects of the fiery furnace. They said, God can deliver, but if we die, even then God will give deliverance. So, no matter the situation, pastors are holding on to Gospel realities throughout. God may very well deliver–that will be to His glory and for His fame. He may choose not to deliver. Situations will inevitably end in death. The cancers may not heal. But, even then, pastors hold out a deeper reality: even in this, God is delivering.
Because Jesus conquered death, pronounced, “It is finished,” and then actually defeated it by rising from the dead, we can offer real, deep, abiding and lasting hope no matter what situations we encounter. So, be a trailblazer into suffering, because there you’ll find rich Gospel realities that stand up to whatever situations we face.