There are many different times to serve: when we are on a spiritual high after a ministry conference, when we are exhausted after a week of summer camp, at the beginning of a new school year and at the end, and in the good times and bad. Last month, I had the unfortunate time of being in a season where it was impossible for me to serve my students because of the fear and hurt in my own life. I live in Colorado Springs on the Air Force Academy and for six days, I was unsure if I would have a home to come back to, a job to continuing to support my family, and all of the newly acquired memories from my newborn son.
Now, I am not talking about burnout where we over extend ourselves, but life happens and you become incapacitated. This is when life simply hits you so hard that you are physically, emotionally, and even spiritually empty. In the past six months, I have experienced or walked through life with several people who have simply hurt too much to be able to minister to others.
The Colorado Springs Wildfires
The Aurora Colorado Theater Shootings
Parents and Siblings Passing Away
Losing Your Job After 20 Years of Work
Prognosis of Cancer
Divorce and Affairs
All of this pain can be overwhelming and the desire as well as even the energy to hear the issues of others, empathize with them, and truly feel compassion for them may be completely lost. Here are a few tips for those who experienced this or know someone who is going through this.
You Do Not Have To Serve
There is a myth within the Church that pastors are super people that do not need to eat, sleep, or cry. When tragedy happens to us, we should quote Scripture, forgive, forget, and move on. Do not buy that lie. We are human, we need to grieve, and we need to heal. Whether you actually lose someone or lost a sense of security that is unimaginable, you need to take the time for yourself, your family, and your soul. Forget the fact that we cannot serve while we are not filled up ourselves. Yes, that is true, but it is statements like that that further promote a lack of humanity within the pastorship. Own your humanity, rely on God for your comfort and support in the worst and best times, and when the healing has truly begun, return to serve.
You are always the person that people come to when they are facing spiritual, moral, and ethical dilemmas. Do you have someone to go to that you can share your deepest pains and not have to worry about the ramifications of the sharing? Maybe you are lucky enough to have a supervisor or senior pastor, but most likely it is someone not on staff with you. Maybe the solution is to seek a professional counselor that is legally unable to share anything? Consider including your spouse in the situation for a more holistic sense of healing.
Sometimes we find so much comfort in that time of healing that we cannot move past it and back to a world of serving. You were called to your church, your ministry, and the students you are serving. Do not squander what God has ordained. By no means am I telling you to rush it, because too many do, but you need to come back and come back better than you were. This tragedy is part of your story, God has made you whole again, and that testimony can speak into the lives you are ministering towards. Serve them well, always relying on God.