There is one thing I have become convinced of since hosting a podcast and talking to women in ministry. Ministry is messy. You can’t be prepared for it. You know the Forrest Gump saying “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are gonna get”? Well, I think that can be true of ministry. You can’t predict who will walk In the door next, the people who will sit in the seats, the pastor on staff with you. You don’t know what type of pastor's wife you will serve with and the coworker you or your spouse will work alongside. You have no way of knowing if someone will be kind or mean, miserable or toxic, lovely or hurting.
While it can be rich and rewarding, ministry isn’t always pretty and tied up with a neat little bow. It can be hard and lonely. The losses of relationships as people come and go are painful. Offense is paralyzing. When things become tough, running and checking out seem like better options than staying and pressing on. But the whisper that sometimes grows as loud as a drum beating in our ears tells us that God has called us to more. It can’t be ignored
When I focus on someone who may or may not have given me the evil eye on Sunday or someone who criticized me or my husband, or when I focus on my offense, the enemy wins. My eyes are on me. When I focus on the low numbers, the person who is doing it better than I am, or the thought that I am not as good as someone else, the enemy wins. My eyes are on others.
Many times I would get tripped up by these things. They surprised me. I somehow thought that ministry shouldn’t be difficult and challenging. This leaves me unprepared to fight. When you go into battle you need to be prepared or you will succumb to the enemy’s attack. When my focus is on me or others my ministry is weak. When my eyes are on God, I can overcome the battles. I can use them to draw nearer to God and to be refined. That makes me stronger. Ministry is messy. It is hard. It’s supposed to be. Look at what the scripture says.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10
3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
Troubles. Hardships. Exhaustion. Heartaches. God’s power. Weapons of righteousness. Joy. Spiritual riches.
I can look at myself, others, offenses, hurts, and more. I can make the harder choice of holding onto bitterness and protecting myself from hurt. Or I can look to God. I can see these things make me stronger. When I do that all those things are pointing me to a bigger picture of what God can do in me and my ministry. That is powerful.
A very wise woman once told me to always remember who I am doing this for. That puts the challenges and pain into great perspective.
Don’t be surprised by the hard things in ministry. Expect it so you can fight it with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. What if you don’t hold onto anger at the person who said something mean? What if you love the one who is cold and doesn’t want to be your friend? What if you pray for the person who stabbed you in the back? Do that and you will draw nearer to God and be stronger in your ministry.