The ministry can be a lonely place. I'm not just talking about those rare, precious moments of solitude and rest. I'm talking about the fact that literally no one else can possibly understand the exact mix of thoughts and emotions you feel at the top of the ladder. No one else sees everything you see. No one else "gets it" like you get it. Often, even if you were free to share what's on your mind, and even if the other person supported you and was sympathetic to your vision, it is not very likely that he or she will understand - at least not in the sense that you understand.
So, before you click away from this post, please understand this: there is hope. This is one of my favorite things to repeat: There is always hope.
Let me share an example from my own ministry. There was a point early on in my ministry that I was ready to quit before I really ever got started. I had been lied to and lied about. I had been wrong and undercut - stabbed in the back by people I trusted. I took it very personally. I was very discouraged. This all happened when I had a previously scheduled trip to Memphis, TN to the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching. God knew what He was doing. During a time of introductions, a gentleman from a community in west Africa stood up and gave his name. The more he spoke, the more I perked up. He mentioned that several years earlier some missionaries came to his town and started a church. He was saved and discipled and was now the national pastor in that church. I knew the situation well. The church I had grown up in was one of the main supporting churches for these missionaries. (This was before my SBC days.) I approached the man after this session, and we hit it off so very well. God used this connection to show me a truth that has kept me going in times that the loneliness of ministry tried to overtake me.
God's Kingdom is Much Bigger Than Me and My Situation. It is easy to give in to feelings of discouragement and self-pity in ministry. When simply putting one foot in front of the other in ministry, obeying the voice of the Lord as best as I know how, gets me to a lonely place, it helps me to remember that I am a small piece in a huge puzzle. I am not truly alone. As the LORD told Elijah in 1 Kings 19:18, there are so many others that are faithful to the mission. I can pray for them, and they can pray for me. Open up to your spouse to the extent that it is healthy to do so. But as many seasoned pastors will tell you, you have to protect your family from many of the pressures of ministry. But never forget that there is One who sees all that you see and more, One who knows all that you know and more. His door is always open; He answers every call. He welcomes you to talk with Him. Maybe this is why the Lord Jesus ended His Great Commission, "And behold, I am with you always - even to the end of the age."
Tags: #loneliness #ministry #pastor #pastors #discouragement #hope #quitting #leaving
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.