During my second year of ministry I was ready to quit and find something else to do. I was frustrated with myself and with the church, and wondered why God would have called me to this ministry in the first place. I had become so involved in the business, politics, and issues of “Pastoral Ministry” that I had been neglecting the actual ministry that I was called to do. I felt dry, empty, and passionless; and it was showing in my work. Fortunately, God brought another pastor into my life who told me, “Remember that which brings you the greatest joy in ministry, and let that be your focus rather than all the other busyness.” Those words pulled me back from the edge, and helped me more than he could know.
At first I thought he was talking about the things I like to do as a pastor; teaching, preaching, visiting, and that by doing these things I would find new joy in ministry. Doing these things does bring me joy and satisfaction in my work, but only temporarily. What I have discovered is “that which brings me greatest joy” refers not to the things I do, but the one who calls me to do them. The thing which brings me greatest joy is the time I spend in fellowship and communion with God. When I let slip my time in God’s Word and my time before God in prayer all the joy and passion is drained from my work. But when I remember the Lord and seek His face, when I “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” all other things seem to fall into place.
Each of us goes through times when it is difficult to find any joy in life. The death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a terrifying disease, a broken relationship, the loss of a job – these can shake us in ways as to cause us to lose our joy. When all joy is lost, it is easy for us to want to quit, to pack it in and go home.
But let us remember what the Psalmist says: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning… To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy… You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent” (Psalm 30). When we walk closely with the Lord, when we cry out to him in our sorrow and loss, He will turn our mourning into dancing; He will fill our hearts with joy.
G.K. Chesterton put it this way,
“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live” (Chesterton, G.K., Orthodoxy, (New York: Double Day, 1959) Pg. 159).
The Spirit teaches that while it is appropriate to mourn our loss and grieve our sins, we should always remember that “the joy of the LORD is [our] strength” (Neh 8:10) There is a time for mourning, but joy comes as the morning. The Christian life is all like one of a spring shower, when the rain-drops weave a mist that hides the sunshine; and yet the hidden sun is in every sparkling drop, and they are all saturated and steeped in its light. ‘The joy of the Lord’ is the natural result and offspring of all Christian faith.
Remember that which brings you greatest joy; and may the presence of God be your joy and strength.
Grace and Peace,
Interesting post, Rev. I know several pastors who went through similar times in their ministries. Sounds like you have some solid advice there – based on the best “How-To” manual there is.