Written by Liz Sarno
Pastors Ed & Lisa Young have a powerful statement on their C3 website that sums up what life in ministry is all about.
“Ministry is the greatest calling anyone can have! It’s a guaranteed courtside seat to the power and beauty of life change. But the reality is that ministry is also brutal. The challenges, obstacles, betrayal, and opposition can, at times, seem overwhelming. To drill it down to one word, ministry is BRUTIFUL!”
The beautiful side is amazing, fulfilling and fun! However, the brutal side can sometimes be overwhelming and painful. The things we experience in ministry, combined with the challenges of life in general, can cause a myriad of emotions that make us want to go be alone on a deserted island somewhere. (Or maybe that’s just me!)
I was reading Matthew 14 the other day when something jumped out at me. In this particular chapter, John the Baptist is beheaded and his disciples reported to Jesus what had happened.
Matthew 14:13 says, “As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.”
John was Jesus’ cousin, His predecessor, the one who baptized him. This horrible news obviously affected Jesus because immediately He left to be alone, presumably to grieve. The next part of the verse says, “But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.”
Jesus’ response is amazing. Verse 14 tells us, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Instead of being annoyed, angry or frustrated that He couldn’t even have a few minutes of private time, Jesus looked at the people with compassion and met their needs. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced times in my life when I was experiencing grief or pain and just wanted to get away, to be alone, to take a break from the multitude of people who always seem to be pulling on me. In those moments, I must admit that my response hasn’t always been like the one Jesus gave. I’m more apt to put on my “Do Not Disturb” sign, avoid them, hide from them or ignore them altogether. Just admitting that brings on the conviction from the Holy Spirit.
How often am I so wrapped up in what is going on in my life that I don’t see the needs of those around me? How often do I just close my eyes to those who are hurting instead of seeing them through the eyes of Jesus? How often do I let the pain I am experiencing cause me to ignore others who also have pain?
I understand there is a balance. Times alone are definitely important. I’m not suggesting that it’s necessary to minister to people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year without ever taking time to refresh. I’m not saying that it’s not okay to take alone time to receive comfort and peace from God.
It is totally okay. It just can’t be our “go to” response.
If you read toward the end of this passage, after Jesus had healed the sick, after He had fed the multitude, after He had met their needs, as He got ready to go to His next destination, He sent the disciples ahead of Him and spent the time He needed to be alone.
All throughout Jesus’ ministry life He often went away to spend alone time with His Father. The strength He received in those times was what enabled Him to still meet the needs of others even when He was hurting.
First and foremost, our personal time with the Lord is what will enable us to face the challenges of life head on. The strength we receive in those moments of fellowshipping with Him is what will give us the strength to see past our own pain and minister to others who He directs us to.
The next time I am tempted to retreat, I determine to throw away the “Do Not Disturb” sign, keep my eyes and ears open to hear God’s voice and to see with His eyes anyone He may put in my path who might need His comfort and peace in their life.
Will you join me in that commitment?