How to Stay the Course When Ministry Hurts

December 13, 2019
Esther Zengerle
Esther Zengerle

When I first went into ministry, I didn't know what a beautiful and painful journey it would be. Through the joys and the sorrows, I have learned that in order to complete my journey, I would need to retreat, reflect and recommit to the Lord, over and over again. 

Everyone's ministry journey is unique. In the beginning of mine, there was so much I didn't know to expect. I never realized the places I would see… across this country, Mexico and in Africa.I never realized the amount of joy I would feel watching people’s lives transformed from darkness to light or to see marriages rebuilt.  I never knew the true delight it would be to see young couples get married and walk with them as they had babies.  I never could have understood how much capacity I would have to love people, people God would supernaturally place in our care. 

I also never knew how much it would hurt to hold women who just lost their children, wives who lost their husbands and husbands who lost their wives.  I never knew how much the enemy would remind me (sometimes through others) all of my imperfections, or the high the cost that I, and my family, would pay.  I could have never understood the weight my husband would carry and how much he would need me to be his armor bearer. 

I would have never imagined the devastation I would feel when people would leave the church, or the sorrow of betrayal and how much it would damage the hearts of so many people.  I would have never believed that people we invested in for years would openly violate our trust and the magnitude of the heartache of disloyalty.

Pain and betrayal is inevitable in ministry.  Sometimes the sting will be small and other times it may be crippling.   But in every case, it will leave a scar! Many people leave the call of leadership and pastoring due to the weight of the hurt.  However, we must realize, Jesus himself was betrayed.  God himself felt a betrayal, by a close friend, a friend who was supposed to defend and support him.  Yet, Jesus didn’t walk away and neither should we.

How to stay the course when ministry Hurts:

Retreat-Unplug and allow yourself to feel the pain.

Jesus himself continually withdrew from people, daily life and demands of ministry to be alone with the Father and pray.  This is how Jesus began his ministry, how he dealt with his own grief and betrayal and how he prepared to take the cross.  When we are faced with the pain of ministry we must follow the example of Jesus and retreat with our Father and to go deeper in our love relationship with Him.  Time alone with God allows our perspective to change and our hearts to recharge.  It allows us to take our eyes off the hurts of this world and place them on the LOVE of our Heavenly Father.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.- Psalm 91:1

Reflect-Ask what you can learn, God what are you trying to teach me?

Pain can be a catalyst for change.  The more uncomfortable we become the more willing we are to grow and change. When God allows a betrayal in our lives it is for our growth and maturity.  If we can then use this “soul-building” season to truly be a catalyst for change -we are able to grow not only in our personal faith and hope, but in our capacity to help others grow in these areas as well. 

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” -Romans 5:3-4 

Recommit- to your call and stay the course.  To truly follow Jesus Christ, we must consider the cost and put him above everything else. Ministry can be brutal but it is also beautiful.  When we realize Jesus experienced pain and betrayal and that it, in and of itself, makes us more like Him –we can continue to walk the honor of our call, stay the course.

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.- Philippians 3:8

Through retreating, reflecting and recommitting, I continue to walk hand-in-hand with the Lord towards the finish line, confident I will receive my reward for living in surrender to the One who died in my place.