The One Thing that Keeps Me Sane in Pastoral Ministry

June 22, 2013

"[caption id=""attachment_354"" align=""alignleft"" width=""150""] This painting by Edvard Munch entitled The Scream last sold for $119 million. Seems the artist hit a chord.[/caption] People can drive me crazy! There I said it. Not the kind of thing a pastor should be admitting but sometimes a guy has to just get it off his chest. Besides, I suspect everyone's been driven to the edge a time or two. The danger in pastoral ministry is the drift towards cynicism. The years of continual interaction in the lives of people can have a debilitating effect on your sense of compassion. And what is even more ironic is that for most of us it was the desire to help people that brought us into ministry in the first place. A sense of wanting to make a difference in peoples lives and to help them engage with God so that transformation can truly take place. People are people, and invariably the church is made up of people. And trust me, I have a lifetime worth of stories to keep me cynical till my final day. As a pastor though, that is not a very healthy place to be. And if truth be told, I know many in ministry who are not in a good place, precisely for this reason. But the one thing that keeps me sane in all of it is a long standing doctrinal truth. We are all sinners. Yeah I know, not a popular notion these days but a biblical truth nevertheless. And if there is one reality that pastors witness day in and day out is that sin is alive and well, even though the culture at large wants to fundamentally ignore it. I can't tell you how much this helps in keeping me sane. Firstly, because it rarely takes me by surprise anymore what people are capable of.  In a culture that promotes the inherent goodness in everyone there is little room left for the ugly or evil side that lurks within us all. And that is not to say that I view everyone with suspicion. In fact it's just the opposite. From my experience most people are just trying to do the right thing. We are all wanting to make the world a better place and just get along. There will always be those whose motives are less than honourable and those who are just toxic human beings. But I don't want the few to taint the many. We are all sinners just trying to do the best we can. I can't tell you how many times I presumed the worst about a person or situation. Then I got the facts and found my presumptions to be misleading. It is easy to judge from a distance but compassion is a close proximity virtue. It is because I acknowledge people as sinners that I can take their weaknesses for what they are. The second thing it does is remind me that we are all in need of God's grace. No one is beyond this need. There are many who are trying to find worth and validation through their job, money, spouse, children, pets, you name it. But in time, we all need a healthy dose of grace. Because at the very moment that grace is needed most, is usually the moments when your sin has been exposed the most. And nothing will bring us forgiveness and peace unless we find repentance in Christ. I can't tell you the amount of hurt and pain my family and I have experienced in ministry. And I'm not saying that to garner empathy or elevate my status in any way. It's just a reality of ministry life, one I'm sure others can corroborate if asked. But keeping this essential truth close is vitally important in those moments when it is easier to become cynical and critical. It may not alleviate the pain, but it will likely go a long way in keeping you sane. I know it does for me."


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