Stew on This: Need to Restore the Joy in Pastoral Life?
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive… because what the world needs is people who have come alive,” (Goodreads).
What makes your soul come alive? Are you feeling positive and optimistic about ministry and the exciting things God is doing in and through you? Or are you in a valley? Are you facing what may feel like a dark night of the soul? Maybe you have lost your sense of excitement and you are finding that the tasks of ministry feel burdensome. You may be feeling exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Ministry is full of immense joy and great heartache. As a shepherd, caring well for your flock, loving people, preaching the word of God, leading the church, and fulfilling responsibilities, you feel the depth of people’s pain, the weight of sin, and the desire in the core of who you are to grow God’s church. It is a big task. If we are honest, there are times when it feels like the air was just sucked out of your balloon. The weight of the world feels like it is on your shoulders.
As you examine your heart, reflecting on your current state of being in ministry, I want you to take note of three callings on your life that Satan distorts. He uses them to steal the joy and vitality from your life.
Restore the Joy in Pastoral Life: Traps to Avoid
The trap of performance (instead pursue excellence) –
Today’s culture is performance oriented. Some of you had parents who were impossible to please. If you got C’s they told you to get B’s. If you to B’s they told you to get A’s. If you A’s they said the teachers were too easy. No matter what you did, you felt like you just weren’t doing good enough. Now as a pastor, you are evaluated on your sermons, on how you ran the meeting, on if your hospital visit was too long or too short, and the list could go on. What happens is the performance mentality is transferred onto God. You feel that you can never measure up. This will steal your joy in a hurry. Performance orientation is based on the fear of God rather than on the love of God. It will destroy your peace.
The trap of people pleasing (instead care for people) –
You fall into this trap when you live to please other people. The primary concern is, “what will other people think?” When you start worrying more about what other people think than what God thinks, you are in trouble. Other people’s opinions begin to manipulate you and conform you into the image they have for you and not the image of Christ. People-pleasing is based on a subtle lie that you must have the approval of other people to be happy. Many people subconsciously believe that. But you can’t please everybody. You can’t base your life on the opinions of other people. It will keep you frantic, frustrated, and unfulfilled. It will rob joy and freedom from your life.
The trap of sinful desires (instead practice self-care) –
You need to break free from habits you can’t seem to control. Examples are eating, drinking, pornography, anger, envy, arguing. Whatever it is, name it. Christ’s death rescues you. He reaches down and plucks you out of being controlled by the sin that surrounds you. Live by the Spirit.
If you find yourself caught in any one of these traps, it is time to break free! It requires an honest assessment and self-evaluation. Identify the areas stealing the joy and vitality from your life and ministry. It is from this place that you can set goals, implement a plan, and take steps toward restoring the joy of who you are and what God has called you to do.
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