I've had my share of pain.
More than some, not as much as others, but I've had my share.
I've had seasons of discouragement and times when I wanted to quit. Like you, I have faced unrealistic expectations, unfair criticism, and unresolved conflict.
I'm grateful to be in a healthy season of life and ministry, but I've been reflecting this week on ministry pain and how pastors can navigate these difficult times.
Pastors are people too, and like most of humanity, it's hard to let go of emotional pain. We forgive and move on, but certain triggers bring the pain back up again. I've learned forgiveness is not a one-time event. It's an ongoing process.
Healthy churches require healthy pastors. We cannot and will not be healthy until we deal with the pain. Whether pain is from the present or the past, it doesn't take a long conversation between pastors for the pain to show up.
Because we deal with people on a daily basis we experience a broad range of emotions. Pastors often feel:
The question is, "How can we let go of our ministry pain?" Here are a few things that have helped me.
1. Stop feeding your discouragement.
I used to have a file folder in my office that contained copies of letters, emails, and social media posts. Each correspondence had been sent to attack me as a pastor. Some were from disgruntled staff members I had let go. Others were letters of complaint about ministry decisions I had made. Some letters were even anonymous.
Once in a while, on a day when I was feeling low, I would pull out that file and read the letters. Strange, I know. As I read the letters the emotions of pain, frustration, and anger would flood my mind.
I remember having lunch with a pastor friend and I mentioned the file of letters. His wise response was, "Loren, you need to go to the office and destroy that file. You are feeding your discouragement."
He was right. I went to the office and shredded each letter. God's presence filled my soul as I let go of the past and the pain.
2. Allow pain to be a teacher.
I can't remember who coined the phrase, but it is true, "Don't waste your pain." In every painful experience, there are lessons to learn and tools to gain.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
3. Exchange your pain for a greater empathy for others.
I can choose to hold onto my pain or I can surrender it to God. When I let it go, it becomes part of my growth as a follower of Jesus.
This may sound odd coming from a pastor, but empathy doesn't always come easy for me. I know. I know. We are shepherds, but I've always been more of a "get a grip, walk it off" kind of guy. But nothing has given me compassion and empathy more than pain.
I like Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 - "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
A final word - Nothing helps me let go of pain more than praying for those who have hurt me. It's very hard to hold on to anger while sincerely praying for God to bless someone.
Maybe you have some letters to go shred. May God help us let go of the pain.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past