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As pastors, pastors' wives, ministry team members and lay ministers, we are accustomed to dealing with the constant heartbreak and difficult life challenges of others. Not a day goes by when someone from our church or denomination doesn't require our help, our prayers or our wisdom. Oftentimes the call comes in the middle of the night or on a day off, yet still we make ourselves available to comfort, counsel or help in a practical way.
But who pastors the pastor when his or her life is falling apart? Who comforts the one who has brought comfort to hundreds of others? Who does a church leader turn to when life has been devastating?
If you have found yourself in this situation, let me assure you that you are not alone. As a leader, it is not often that you can be vulnerable with those that you lead; however, I believe that God has a plan and a strategy for those of us who need a helping hand in the dark days of life.
First of all, be sure that you have a group of vibrant and safe believers around you at all times so when a difficult situation invades your life, you have those who truly care for you the "person" and not just the "minister." This group of trusted friends and advisors can circle the wagons around you in your moment of pain to offer protection as well as counsel.
Secondly, never forget that you can powerfully prayer for yourself and for your situation just like you have created a lifestyle of praying for others. When you are hurting or when someone you love is in pain, hit your knees and lift your hands in worship. God hears His people and is instantly on His way during the darkest days of one's life. You are not forgotten when your life has imploded; God truly is the Friend who is closer than a brother.
Gently tell the church what you need and what you don't need. There will be assertive, well-meaning people in your midst who react too quickly and often too aggressively; it is often necessary to sweetly inform these people when they are doing too much. Also, tell the church staff or leadership team exactly what you need during these challenging days. Do you need meals? Do you need time off? Do you need someone to clean your house? Be specific and kind as you state these requests. If you are not brave enough to do it, secure a trusted friend who is able to communicate with others exactly what is needful in the moment.
Perhaps it would be wise to join a support group outside of your church if the situation stretches on with no end in sight. There is often safety and wisdom in sharing your pain with others who have been through what you are going through. God will meet you there.
Remind yourself that the Word of God applies to your situation as well to the situations of those under your care. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a specific Bible verse and then stand on this verse when you are in the battle. Share this portion of Scripture with your church or the leadership team so that they are able to be praying effectively with power, in the same manner that you are praying.
There will be moments in the battle when you just need to forgive people who say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. Just determine ahead of time that you are going to embrace a spirit of forgiveness regardless of what others say, don't say, do or don't do. Forgive in advance!
And finally, stay in fellowship at your church. Continue to worship, tithe and serve others. Oftentimes when the storms of life blow, people tend to extract themselves from church life. However, it is in the Body of Christ where the greatest comfort is found and where life-changing wisdom is available.
Know that I am praying for you today as you walk through your storm; although I don't know your name, I do know your heart and your pain. I will be lifting up your arms in faith that our good, good Father will send the comfort that you need.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.
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