Life is hard. Life in ministry is even harder… With any ministry, we see the good, the bad and the downright ugly in people. Once you step out to minister in any capacity, you also become a target not only for “the enemy” but for those who oppose Christ and/or Christianity.
This, combined with the fact that we live in a fallen world where sin abounds means that during times of ministry, we can face some really difficult circumstances. I want you to know, however, that difficult times of ministry come and go. If we can align our hearts with God, we stand to learn some very valuable lessons from the difficulties.
In Isaiah 61, God is speaking to His chosen (which we are now a part of, thanks to the fulfilling of promises through Jesus). I can not tell you how many times in ministry, I have clung to these verses. I’ve used them to encourage others who I have encountered in the midst of difficulty in ministry and myself! In our 9 years of ministering together, my husband and I have faced some situations I would have never imagined. Some of those were so hurtful, that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the pain from it made daily life difficult.
It was during those times, though, that I inclined my heart to hear what my God was saying. During those most difficult days, when I felt as though all I knew was being tossed out the window, God taught me some very valuable lessons. Today, I want to share with you some of the ways we can hear from God during the difficulty:
1. Remind yourself of what brought you to this place of ministry to begin with. I know God did (DUH!) but I mean, what mountains did He move to get you there? What promises did He speak over your life? In what ways did He show you His plans that caused you to take a leap of faith into this ministry?
2. Ask God to show you what lesson He is teaching you. The beauty of God is that even when our sin nature makes things messy for us in this World, God is faithful to use even the mess to draw us closer to Him. The lessons you learn from difficult circumstances will not only help you through but will help someone else down the road.
3. Don’t let God get lost in all the serving. I can not tell you how many times, I’ve gotten so busy for God that I left Him in my dust! Now believe me, I am not a proponent of laziness and I really believe that busy can be useful (as long as you take time to rest in Him), but we can not get so focused on the serving that we ignore the God who called us to service! Read your bible, spend time resting in Him, pray without ceasing and get back to the heart of the matter. Your relationship with God is always most important. Everything else needs to come from the overflow of your relationship with Him. Without it coming from the overflow, you are sure to experience burn out.
4. Focus on the here and now. You know, it is so easy to get caught up planning for the future that we ignore the present. Sure, God is in the future but He is also present now. He has a plan for right now and if we focus all of our time and energy on the future, we will miss what He is saying now.
5. Find comrades. We can not be islands. Trusting others, especially when we are in ministry can be scary but we need people who can share in our lives with us. We need those who can lift us up in prayer in the times when we can scarcely hold our heads up. Go to the next town over if need be, but find someone who you can trust and let them in. It won’t shock them to know that you are not perfect as much as it will pain you to admit it. But trust me, once the confession is out there, living life becomes much easier.
6. Do not pretend everything is perfect if it isn’t. You know, I have found that God uses the yuck in my life to speak to others more often than I could ever imagine. Transparency in the kingdom is essential because other people need to see that you are human just as they are.Jesus is the only one who walked the Earth in perfection and I assure you, no one expects you to do the same.
7. And finally, allow yourself to have some fun. LIVE LIFE. Where you are now is where God has you for a purpose. Do not get so caught up in yourself that you think God can not work wherever you are. Even if where you are is a product of sin, God can still use the NOW for His glory. He is a master craftsman. He can redeem any situation and make it beautiful.
Cast those cares at the feet of Jesus and trust Him to guide you. Remember that your difficulty is not lost on God.. He has a plan for this too!