Paul’s experience of suffering and comfort in the course of his ministry is replicated in every generation in the lives of godly missionaries and pastors in their interrelationships with their congregations. While both minister and people suffer as they bear witness to Christ in an alien culture, there remains a distinctive role and therefore a distinctive suffering to the Christian leader. As the comfort of God is experienced in the life of the leader, so it will be passed on through ministry to the people [see 2 Cor 1:3-7].
Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more ply you with his temptations than other men. If you will be the leaders against the prince of darkness, he will spare you no further than God restraints him. He bears the greatest malice to those that are engaged to do him the greatest mischief. As he hates Christ more than any of us, because He is the General of the field, the Captain of our salvation, and does more than all the world besides against his kingdom; so does he hate the leaders under Him, more than the common soldiers: he knows what a rout he may make among them, if the leaders fall before their eyes.
Burned and wasted we must be; and is it not fitter it should be in lighting men to heaven, and in working for God, than in living to the flesh? How little difference is there between the pleasure of a long and of a short life, when they are both at an end! What comfort will it be to you at death, that you lengthened your life by shortening your work? He that worketh much, liveth much. Our life is to be esteemed according to the ends and works of it, and not according to the mere duration… Will it not comfort us more at death, to review a short time faithfully spent, than a long life spent unfaithfully?
We must feel toward our people as a father toward his children; yea, the most tender love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even travail in birth, till Christ be formed in them. They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison to their salvation… When the people see that you truly love them, they will hear anything from you… Oh therefore, see that you feel a tender love for your people in your hearts, and let them perceive it in your speech and conduct. Let them see that you spend and are spent for their sakes.
To be a true minister to men is always to accept new happiness and new distress. The man who gives himself to other men can never be a wholly sad man; but no more can he be a man of unclouded gladness. To him shall come with every deeper consecration a before untasted joy, but in the same cup shall be mixed a sorrow that it was beyond his power to feel before.
Therefore, I bind these lies and slanderous accusations to my person as an ornament; it belongs to my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled, and since all this is nothing but that, as God and my conscience testify, I rejoice in being reproached for Christ’s sake.
I can say as to myself, that I have been assailed on all sides, and have scarcely been able to enjoy repose for a single moment, but have always had to sustain some conflict either from enemies without or within the church.
The minister’s work debilitates nature; like the candle, he wastes while he shines.
A pastoral pulse is forged in the crucible of suffering.
Sometimes pastors become pastures. The sheep feed in them and trample them, but so not follow them (Mark Absher).
I’ve been there a few times in my life. Most don’t understand it. That’s understandable. However, it hit home to me when the Apostle Paul said, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). A number of years ago, the pain was so intense that the physical affliction Paul spoke about earlier in 2 Corinthians 11 would have been much preferred. I can take the long hours and the hard work. I can even take the pressures on my family. But the emotional pain is the one and only thing that forever tempts me to throw in the towel. When I feel that way, I can almost hear the Lord saying to me, “Are you in it for Me or are you in it for yourself?” That’s gut-check time. Am I really a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23)?
Pastors will experience a level of suffering uncommon, unfamiliar and not understandable to other believers. That is God’s way of keeping them humble and reminding them that it’s not them, but the Gospel that must be on display through them. And when they understand this, they realize that successful ministry is getting out of the way and allowing the power of Christ to shine through. By using “jars of clay,” God wants to make it clear that divine power lies not in the human messenger, but in the divine message. It is true for all Christians. It is especially true for pastors.
For example, there will be people who will find it easy to identify a weakness or something in which they disagree (doctrine, preference, conviction, philosophy, etc.) and relentlessly harass [their pastors] with books and sermon tapes, website links and personal propaganda (that exceeds the Taliban) in an effort to voice their displeasure and bring them over to their side on the matter. Some will have no comprehension that pastors are only human beings. Their comments will always be critical. Their baggage will be dumped with no desire for personal change. Their comparisons will be made to the top pastors in the world. They will take their pastors for granted. Their perceived role in the church is to be a constant fault-finder. And their expectations will be unreasonable.
People in the church will drop major counseling bombs on [their pastors] men when they are simply trying to enjoy a hot dog with their family at the church picnic. Some people will always expect their pastor’s to be under them. You get a house, wow, we live in an apartment. I would like to make that kind of money. I don’t get to take Mondays off. Why do you get three weeks when I am only allowed two weeks of vacation. It’s the attitude that they are the shareholders of a pastor’s stock and everything the pastor benefits from must be inferior to their benefits because after all they are paying the pastor’s salary.
Some people will threaten to leave the church if they don’t get what they want and intentionally create a wave of destruction in their departure that takes the pastors months to mop up. Some people will complain that the pastors never share their weaknesses, yet those very people when upset with the pastor will use his revealed weaknesses against him when given the opportunity. Some will complain that the pastors never reach out to them and then when the pastor reaches out, they will accuse him of badgering them. Some will want the all the details of leadership decisions and then accuse the pastors of gossiping when they share anything. Some will tell the pastors they need to delegate more, yet they feel slighted when their situation is delegated to another. And possibly most difficult of all, some people will show great zeal for the Lord, encourage the pastor’s heart and monopolize much of his time, and then walk away, but not before stabbing him in the back and breaking his heart.
Your pastors will be consistently “afflicted,” as 2 Corinthians 4:8 declares. Their personal life will be scrutinized. Their labor will be relentless. Their family will be tested. Their freedoms in Christ will be limited. Their decisions will be questioned. If it goes well all the glory to God. Yet if it doesn’t, it is the pastor’s fault. As Paul said, they will be afflicted in “every way.” Changing churches or careers will seem like the greener pasture. Yet pastors must remember that God is sovereign and because He is in control, they are not, as the verse say, “crushed.” As one pastor said, “Squeezed, but not squashed.”
This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory.
Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.
It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh. Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail.
[A pastor’s] work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment. To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin – are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth? The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep. How can we be otherwise than sorrowful, while men believe not our report, and the divine arm is not revealed?
A minister fully equipped for his work, will usually be a spirit by himself, above, beyond, and apart from others. The most loving of his people cannot enter into his peculiar thoughts, cares, and temptations. In the ranks, men walk shoulder to shoulder, with many comrades, but as the officer rises in rank, men of his standing are fewer in number. There are many soldiers, few captains, fewer colonels, but only one commander-in-chief. So, in our churches, the man whom the Lord raises as a leader becomes, in the same degree in which he is…a solitary man… The solitude of a soul which has outstripped its fellows in zeal for the Lord of hosts: it dares not reveal itself, lest men count it mad; it cannot conceal itself, for a fire burns within its bones: only before the Lord does it find rest.
To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly-ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog.
The trials of a true minister are not few, and such as are caused by ungrateful professors are harder to bear than the coarsest attacks of avowed enemies. Let no man who looks for ease of mind and seeks the quietude of life enter the ministry; if he does so he will flee from it in disgust.
My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil.
Love bears up under the heavy load of life’s problems and sufferings. It holds steadfast and remains strong despite opposition, deprivation, and hard work. Love is courageous. It can carry enormous weight; thus loving leaders have an amazing ability to endure all sorts of suffering and frustration for the sake of others and the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12). This is a trait of all good shepherds (Gen. 31:38-40). They persevere and do not give up easily or fall apart under pressure.
We must remember that our suffering is not in the way of God’s plan, but part of it. In our suffering, God is not only with us but also is employing it to change us and those to whom we minister.
[In the eyes of some Congregants] you aren’t a human anymore when you become a pastor. You are thing. A thing that is there to baptize them, bless them, pray for them, and serve them, but if you cross them, fail them, or fall short for them they will leave you to go find another thing. No one goes to the doctor because they care how the doctor feels. They go to the doctor to get better…and once they are they will have no use for the doctor.
When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him.
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.