By Ryan Rice
Yesterday, I sat in the men’s discipleship group, and we each briefly shared about our spiritual journey. One of the questions asked us to share a time in your life where we felt most distant from God.
As a pastor, these moments can be challenging. Can the pastor genuinely share their struggles, hurts, and pain, with other members of the church?
As one of our brothers began to share, thoughts raced through my mind, what could I say that didn’t make me look too bad? Also, would the truth of my struggles cause these men to see me differently?
We listened, as this brother reflected on a dark moment in his life where he felt distant from God. However, in the midst of the sorrow, suffering, and strife; God began working on his heart and mind.
Although he was in the fight of his life, he was sharing how the Lord was teaching him that the fight doesn’t have to consume him. Despite the pain, God was bringing him through with peace and joy.
Circumstances and trials are tools that shape our character. The good fight we are in, serving the Lord, can leave us battered, bullied and bruised. But the fight doesn’t have to destroy us.
No matter who we are, we are all in some conflict of our own. It could be a struggle in our marriages, finances, or church drama. But how often does the battle consume us?
Too consumed to pray, fast, or enjoy life, many of us become so overwhelmed that we neglect the very things that God has given to encourage us.
The Apostle Paul knew a little something about that fight. Shipwrecked, beaten, jailed and snakebitten are the marks of a man who knew hardship.
However, in Philippians 4:13, we learn the secret to his endurance and contentment: “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”
God desires for us to trust Him even when we can’t see our way out of the fight. As we fight the good fight, we must remember three things.
We may be cornered, but we still have His life.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul writes how the treasure we have in these earthen vessels shows the very extraordinary power of God, and not of our own. When cornered in the fight, we either choose to run or fight back.
What if we decide to remember whose fight it is in the first place?
Although afflicted in every way, affliction doesn’t have to snuff the life out of us as believers. We have an unending well to fulfill our thirsting soul.
These momentary and light afflictions pale in comparison to the glory God has in store for us. As we continue to walk with Jesus, he has promised to finish the work He began in us.
Growing up, I remember some of the older folks saying, “I believe I’ll run on and see what the end is going to be.” As God strengthens us, we press on, knowing the end is way better than where we are now.
Find joy in Him. Find Rest in Him.
We may be perplexed, but we don’t have to despair.
Sometimes Christian cliches can prove right. Take “too blessed to be stressed,” for example. For many of us, stress is our lives.
We no longer enjoy our kids, preaching, or family. I had one seminary professor say, “If no one else appreciates your preaching, you sure better.”
When was the last Sunday you left the pulpit and just gave thanks to God that he used you to proclaim the glorious Gospel? Have you taken time to enjoy the presence of your wife and kids?
Don’t allow the momentary affliction lead you to despair.
Anyone who steps into the role of Christian ministry will experience similar weakness as Paul describes. His divine strength will sustain, supply, and supplement all our needs.
In short, we may be stressed, but we don’t have to be stressed out.
We may suffer, but we are not abandoned or destroyed.
In our lowest moments, we may feel like Humpty Dumpty, shattered and broken, with no hope of being put back together again. The earthen vessel will endure cracks, bruises, and dings, but what we carry on the inside will never fade.
When Paul writes of being struck down, it is the picture of being laid low by a weapon, bullied, or stricken with a disease. However, His power is always working in an through us.
One thing we must remember is that we are never alone. It may seem like it is “lonely at the top,” but with His grace, we don’t have to endure it alone. He is a very present help in all our times of trouble.
So, what did I share with the brothers in the discipleship group? I shared the truth of my struggles and my need for the all-sufficient Savior.
You may be in the fight, but the fight doesn’t have to consume you. Reset and remember the all-sufficient one who can not only meet your needs but sustain you through every battle.
RYAN RICE, SR. (@ryanricesr) is the husband of Seané, father of Ryan, Jr., Brayden, Reagen, & Bailey, and has been in ministry since 2007. He is currently the lead pastor of Connect Church of Algiers in New Orleans, Lousiana, which they planted in 2014.