Here’s what to remember when ministry feels especially hard.
This year marks my 20th year in ministry. I’ve learned something along the way. Ministry is hard. I’ve never questioned God’s calling or gifting in my life, but I have definitely gone through some tough seasons that have left me asking, “Is this worth it?” I know that some of you are going through a season like that right now.
I want to share a story from Mark’s Gospel that encourages me in the tougher seasons of ministry. It comes from chapter nine, where a father brings his son to Jesus. The man’s son is possessed by a demon and this Father is desperate. His hope is that Jesus might bring freedom and healing to his boy.
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. -Mark 9:19-20
Have you ever witnessed something like this? I don’t mean the demon. Take away the demon; doesn’t this sound like a seizure? Have you ever witnessed a seizure?
A while back, I worked with someone who experienced occasional seizures. There were a handful of times where she had a seizure while we were working together. It was terrifying. It really shakes you up. I mean, you feel totally helpless. Especially if you have no experience with a seizure, you think “Is this person dying?” You don’t know what’s going on and you don’t know what to do.
Some of you have experienced this very personally. You have watched as your child was overtaken by a seizure. It’s so scary. You feel so helpless, so powerless. And, in the aftermath of a child’s seizure you have so many questions. Was this a fluke? Does my kid have epilepsy? What does this mean for our future? You’re on edge every day after something like that happens. Every little thing makes you feel like your kid might be starting another seizure. It’s terrible.
I can’t imagine what the father in this story, and presumably the mother in this story, had been experiencing. But what is so moving in this story is what happens next.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. Mark 9:21
Jesus listens to this father. He observes the son. And then Jesus asks, “how long?” How long has he been like this? How long has this been going on?
Some of us need to be reminded that Jesus asks questions like this. He wants to know. He cares. You see, for Jesus, this is not just another problem to be solved. It’s not just another demon to defeat. It’s not just another teaching illustration for his disciples. This is a family in pain and Jesus wants to know how long they had been going through this.
Could I ask you? How long? How long has it been going on in your life?
I don’t know what kind of difficulty you are walking through, but I do know that ministry is hard and exhausting. It’s particularly challenging because you have to be careful with who you open up to. We believe that our people expect us to have it all together.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine Jesus sitting with you, leaning in and asking, “How long has it been like this?” He cares and he wants to know about the pain and difficulty you’ve been carrying around.
I grew up in one of those church traditions that had AWANA. I bet a few of you did as well. Because of AWANA, there are two things I carry with me to this day. I’m a pro at kickball. Also, I have a bunch of scattered Bible verses memorized. Here’s a Bible verse from my AWANA days.
“Cast all your cares on him for he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
Peter wrote these words. Peter was in the crowd that day. He watched this encounter between this Father and his boy and Jesus. I wonder if this is where Peter learned for the first time, “Wow…Jesus really cares.” I wonder if this is where Peter learned about the compassion of Christ.
Ministry leader, can I ask you something? What cares do you need to cast on Jesus? What’s going on in your life or ministry that is heavy, painful, overwhelming? What cares do you need to cast on Him? Because He cares for you.
Some of us are carrying around pain, struggle, anxiety and all sorts of other difficulties. Could I remind you that Jesus wants to know what’s going on and He cares? He doesn’t expect you to have it all together. I have a suspicion that He knows exactly how hard ministry can be.
Perhaps the healthiest thing you can do today is spend some time with Jesus, talking to Him about what is really going on in your life and ministry. May you feel the care of your Lord and Savior today and may His compassion sustain you as you live and lead.
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