Most of the time, life doesn’t stink. But, sometimes it flat out does. The old Morton Salt axiom, “When it Rains, it Pours,” comes to mind. The kids are sick, the car breaks down, the boss bears down, the church devolves into turmoil, marriage is full of tension, your health fails, money is short–whatever there is to frustrate or hurt you–it sometimes happens all at once.
Those in ministry aren’t immune from such seasons, and when ministry adds to an already heavy load, there are some things the wise commit themselves to. Call these spiritual disciplines for a life-storm:
Prepare out of season. It’s so much easier to deal with acutely difficult seasons when we prepare for them in advance. Assume they may happen at some point, and prepare yourself spiritually and emotionally beforehand. Those who always assume good things should and will happen to them tend to end up disillusioned, unprepared and often with a feeling of entitlement to boot. Believe Jesus’ words, “In this world, you will have trouble.”
Guard your heart. Whatever else you do, do this. In times of weakness, Satan crouches at the door. Draw on the resources of the Spirit. Resolve that even if everything else falls apart around you, you will guard your heart.
Don’t isolate yourself. It’s tempting to “circle the wagons” emotionally and spiritually while enduring a world-class poop storm. Don’t. Trust in God’s provision through others. Allow others to love you and strengthen you. C.S. Lewis once said, “Sin demands to have a man by himself.” Well, so does despair. One of God’s greatest gifts to the struggling is His people.
Ask yourself the Jonah question: “Is the storm I’m in a result of some sort of rebellion against God?” If so, repent and receive God’s grace. In doing this, avoid the sin of Job’s friends–mistakenly attributing all suffering to your personal sin.
Wait it out patiently. Trouble typically doesn’t last forever. However, if there is a thorn in the flesh for you to endure, ask that God’s strength be made perfect in your weakness and endure patiently.
Confess despair to God. Despair is suffocating. It’s the worst kind of discouragement–permanent…a sense that it’s never going to get better. I’ve found that confessing that to the Lord oddly gives me faith by bringing my despair into the presence of the one who alone provides hope.
There are other words of advice I could offer, but I’d love to hear some of yours.
What have you found helpful for living through really, really tough life storms?