One of the loneliest moments in my life happened during my year abroad in Manchester, England. I was completing my senior year of undergraduate studies in computer science at the University of Manchester.
It occurred about 5 months after my arrival. Having prepared a simple dinner, my friend, Elizabeth, and I sat down to enjoy it. The rooms and halls on the third floor of our building were empty and quiet. Only a handful of us had returned a few days prior to beginning the spring semester.
There we sat in the stillness of the moment in the small kitchen of our dorm, Saint Gabriel’s Hall. I broke down sobbing in front of my friend. I recall questioning WHY was I there. Why was God doing this to me. I sensed it was beyond the opportunity of studying abroad.
Many years later I would recognize that the Lord used this time for my own spiritual growth. He helped me see and experience another side of the global Body of Christ. I learned so much during that year.
I believe pastors and their families go through similar scenarios at times questioning why they’re in ministry.
Several years ago my mother shared one of those moments. Due to my father’s many travels for ministry, we were alone a lot. Sometimes after church services on Saturday nights, my mother stopped by a small Chinese restaurant on our way home. She’d pick up a family meal we could enjoy together. We did not eat out a whole lot because finances were limited, and this was her way of creating small memories for us as a family. My three sisters and I would gather around the table with our dear mother serving us.
My mother recalls that on a particular occasion, my middle sister, Yesenia, asked why was our family so different. Why did other families have a dad present with them every weekend and we didn’t.
Could you imagine what went through my mother’s mind while hearing the sadness in my sister’s voice and words? My mother says she would hold back her tears so as not to appear weak in front of us. I cannot imagine the many times that my mother questioned my father’s calling. And I cannot imagine the many times she cried alone gripped by the seclusion that comes with pastoral life. Her only choice was to anchor herself in the Lord through prayer. Her prayer life was and continues to be her comfort and strength.
A pastor’s life is not easy.
They are held on a pedestal – a higher standard, and rightfully so. When they make a mistake, they pay a hefty price. It can get very lonely, very quickly.
Pastors cannot share their struggles with just anybody. Yet they are human just like anyone else facing similar fears, struggles, and difficulties. The difference is that pastors are “set apart“, what the Bible calls “sanctified”, to do specific work in His Kingdom. (I bet you’ll never see the word “sanctified” the same again.)
Despite afflictions, God is always with those who serve Him. I love how King David shows his raw feelings in this passage:
I will be glad and rejoice in Your lovingkindness,Psalm 31:8-9
for You saw my affliction.
You knew the troubles of my soul.
You did not hand me over to the enemy.
You set my feet in a wide-open place.
King David knew how to take comfort in the Lord, as you and I should:
How great is Your goodness,Psalm 31:20-21
which You have stored up for those who fear You,
which You have given to those who take refuge in You,
before the children of men.
In the shelter of Your presence
You hide them from people’s plots.
You conceal them in a sukkah [shelter]
from the strife of tongues.
I feel fortunate that the Lord gave my husband the wisdom to surround himself with experienced leaders to nurture vital relationships. He did this before planting Shalom Church. As a life coach, Nestor has coached many pastors. He’s has been a listening ear and encouraging voice they’ve come to trust.
In just a few gatherings we’ve had breaking bread together with our apostolic elders who have many years of ministry experience, I can tell you that I feel safe and supported.
Our apostolic elders are genuine people who desire our success. Their many stories, even some incredibly funny ones, are invaluable experiences we draw from. Their wise counsel on handling different situations is a relief, like a cool glass of fresh filtered water that quenches your thirst in the middle of a Texas-hot summer day.
Though the life of a pastor is set apart, it does NOT have to be lonely.
Pastors must connect with other pastors. They must have trusted people to talk to. They must allow those relationships to help and hold them accountable.
And sheep should pray for their pastors and help them however they can. Praying is a responsibility we must take seriously. I have personally felt the prayers of those interceding for our strength and vitality.
I urge you to pray for your pastor, his family, his health, his protection, his finances.
Pray for pastors locally and globally. As you drive by around town and come across different churches, say a prayer for that pastor and the church.
Bless and honor your pastor in tangible ways as the Lord leads you. Support your pastor. Bless him with thank you notes. Express your thanks. Offer help. If anyone tries to backstab him or her stand up for your pastor. Don’t participate in division and strife. Nip it in the bud.
Avert crisis coming to your pastor. Planting seeds of discord among brethren is one of seven sins God hates. He calls them an abomination (Provers 6:16). Don’t participate in conversations that divide and break the unity in your church community.
Each time we’ve ministered in other churches, we’ve always honored the pastors of that house and taught the congregation to continue to do so. As a visiting preacher, it makes it easier to speak to the congregation about things that the pastor would not normally tell his congregants. It’s more effective when it comes from someone outside. Hence, my husband seizes those opportunities to guide and encourage the church to respect, honor, and bless their shepherd.
Even though a pastor’s life is different, they are never alone.
My mother was never alone. To this day my father has never been alone in his pastoral journey. God has been with them. And God has been, is, and will be with us and our family in our new journey.
God protects and safeguards ALL of His children.
Whether you are in leadership or not, you are a child of God. This is a gentle reminder that you are never alone. God will bless you in ways you cannot imagine. He will send people to lift you up, hold your hands, encourage you, bless you, and reaffirm your calling.
God’s Word reassures us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus promised,
I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS even until the end of the earth!Matthew 28:20
You can hang your hat on that.