By Matt Henslee
The best job in the world is being a pastor. But I also know there are times when it’s the worst.
I mean, if you want a job where everyone loves you and cheers for you, you might as well buy an ice cream truck and get started.
But for real, pastoring is awesome. You get a front-row seat to see the hand of God at work. You see people released from the bondage of sin, relationships restored, and lives changed or renewed by the gospel you declare.
But it’s also terrible. Why? Because you get a front-row seat to see the enemy at work. You’ll see him prowling about, looking for unsuspecting victims, and going in for the kill.
Marriages will be ripped in two, friends will become enemies, and you may even find your church body in tatters from Satan’s assaults.
It’s Awesome, It’s Terrible, and It’s Totally Worth It
If you’re relying on the awesome to outweigh the terrible to keep you in the fight, I hate to break it to you: it’s not worth it. But if you remember your calling (Ephesians 4:1-16), remember who you’re fighting (Ephesians 6:10-20), and remember Who’s fighting with and for you (Romans 8:18-39), it’s totally worth it.
You see, we pastors tend to put on a nice façade for social media. You see the good in comments like “great crowd today” or “we had four come forward to trust Jesus,” but rarely hear about the bad and the ugly. Pastors don’t post online about the terribly heavy counseling situations they have or members who are sowing discord.
And you know what? I get it. We want to put the best face our church forward, make the most of Jesus on our platforms, and avoid projecting an image of being a Debbie Downer. Plus, there are some things we simply can’t talk about.
In the Shadows of Ministry
There are counseling sessions where you learn a spouse is addicted to porn or struggling with suicidal thoughts. There are counseling sessions where you learn a husband beat his wife or vice versa. Shoot, let’s go all-in; there are times you discover a child has been sexually molested.
You don’t post about these things on social media or talk to your fellow church members about them, well, because you can’t. Beyond the fact that personally sharing some of these issues will make you so sick to your stomach, there’s the whole issue of confidentiality (of course, this doesn’t apply to you immediately contacting and cooperating with police and proper authorities for issues that involve crimes).
But let me let you in on a little secret. Are you listening?
In the shadows of ministry, He is there.
The Shadow of the Almighty
Fellow pastors, church leaders, and whoever else is reading this: when you seem to be in the darkest shadows of ministry when the weight gets too much to bear, you have to remember this. In fact, I encourage you to grab your Bible right now and underline Psalm 91:1.
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.”
I don’t want to get too mushy and gushy here, but think about this. When you step outside today and see your shadow, where is it the darkest? That’s right—in the part closest to you. That’s what I think about when I remember I dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.
Yes, God is always with us…I mean, the Spirit indwells us! But when the shadows of ministry get darker and darker, realize that—in those moments—you’re the closest you can possibly be to the Almighty until you stand before Him in heaven.
Lean in and trust
Trust that God is going to bring sense to the senseless. Trust He’s going to give hope to the hopeless. And for crying out loud, trust He’s never going to leave or forsake you because in the darkest shadows of ministry, He’s right there by your side and is for you.
You see, since we pastors can’t discuss the specifics of the shadows we’re under, no one else truly knows the weight we’re carrying at any given time. But God—He knows. He cares, and He’s closest when you’re in the darkest shadow of ministry.
Take some time to reflect on this, and then do something for me. If you’re a pastor, take a moment right now to look for the first pastor on your Twitter or Facebook feed, pray for them, and send them a message of encouragement.
Church members, stop what you’re doing right now and pray for your pastors. Even if it seems like they have everything together, still pray for them.
They need it more than you’ll ever know.