Frank (not his real name but he read this and gave permission to tell the story) called to talk about the downward spiral in his life. Everything was coming unglued: his widowed father was just diagnosed with dementia and had to be put in a care center; the first Elder’s wife had called with a list of 5 people who were complaining that the pastor never came to call; she also reminded him that attendance has been down the past three weeks and he needed to “do something;” the trustees were pushing him to help with the remodeling project at church on Saturday (his only full day to work on his Sunday message because he’s bi-vocational); and the parents of a teen called to complain about another teen attending youth group whom they considered a “bad influence.” On top of all that, his migraines have returned and the medication he depended on for years isn’t working.
He said, “I didn’t sign up for this. Maybe this isn’t God’s will for my life. I’m not sure I have what it takes.”
We talked and shared some Scripture and prayed together.
Frank’s last question was, “Why is serving God so painful?”
Allow me to make four observations:
First of all, this is why I do what I do. I’ve experienced the draining emotions Frank described. Been there. Done that. And I remember wondering, “Who can I talk to?” Whatever it takes, share these burdens with someone who can keep confidences; who understands; who isn’t intent on fixing everything or having all the answers. Call, email, text, set an appointment to meet with me . . . Yes, I have someone I talk to in order to help me process and determine which burdens are real and which ones are false – from the enemy.
Second, we get way too hung up on “finding God’s will.” “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is certainly true, but its interpretation is critical. Many of us suffer delusional ideas when it comes to God’s plan for our lives because our minds seem bent on happiness and security issues. Most of us immediately think of God’s direction for our individual lives in terms of education, career, marriage and family. We want to interpret God’s promise as a supernatural guarantee that offers personal peace, physical security, economic success and inner significance. And when that kind of spiritualized success does not materialize we are disappointed with God. It is often unclear whether or not there is a distinction between a worldly strategy for self-fulfillment and Jesus’ strategy for self-fulfillment. The “wonderful plan” seems to have little to do with taking up a cross and following Jesus and more to do with a false gospel of health and wealth. We forget that Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt 16:24-25).
Third, don’t trust your feelings. To base the will of God on human speculation, opinions and feelings, is to fall victim to the spirit of the times and the mood of the moment. But to establish God’s will on the solid ground of God’s revelation is to live on a firm foundation that weathers the storms of life and the volatility of feelings. The word of the Lord defines the long obedience in the same direction, apart from which we are constantly wandering down dead ends and dark alleys. When these discouraging times come, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
Fourth, in this life of following Christ we have to have durability; especially those of us in ministry. Chuck Swindoll wrote a great article on standing firm and staying faithful. Click here to read.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)
(Thanks to Doug Webster for his input.)