The Pain is Real …. and It’s Okay

I am amazed at what people heap upon the leadership of the church, especially the pastor. If someone leaves the church it is the pastor’s fault. If someone has an issue or a complaint it is automatically assumed the pastor did something wrong and it is his job to fix it. If someone betrays the pastor it is his job to go and reconcile and bring the “lost sheep” back into the fold. As a pastor I have grown to accept this.

What I have a hard time with is the insensitivity to my feelings. I refuse to let people try to minimize or rationalize how I am feeling inside. This isn’t one of those “I am a person and I have feelings too” kind of moments. This is one of moments that I am expected to soldier on even though inside I am grieving. What I have found that as the leader of the church people want me to be doing okay all the time.

For a long time I struggled with this and it only produced more feelings of frustration. Why weren’t people understanding that I might need a moment to deal or maybe that I am not in a good mood because I am dealing with something? As I grew through this I realized they weren’t even thinking about me, or what I am going through at all, they needed me to be okay so that I could deal with their problems.

So lately I have been focusing on how I can deal with all the stuff going on in me while at the same time be available to counsel others. There are a couple of things that I have discovered that are helping.

First, I take my feelings to God everyday: I know this sounds trite but I have found it to preciously true, especially when it comes to anger. Currently I am working through a messy situation with a former elder that had produced some intense feelings inside of me. If I don’t take this to the cross and ask Jesus to help me I am prone to allow this spiritual battle rage in my mind which leaves me in a terrible state of mind. I am then good to no one.

Second, I manage my schedule much better: I have only so many spots in my calendar each week for counseling. My first priority are the messages I teach, then my staff, then counseling. I am okay with saying no or delegating it to my associate pastor. It has taken a long time but I think I am there.

Finally, I don’t beat myself up: Most of what goes on in a pastor’s ministry happens in his mind. It is a true Iceberg analogy where people only see ten percent. Most pastor’s beat themselves up over the mistakes they have made. It can be debilitating. I have become content in being real. This shocks people sometimes, especially old school church people, but it is so freeing. I don’t go around raging but I am just honest with people. I also understand that when feelings of anger come up I am not a bad person. I don’t let it turn into sin but I deal with it.

The fact is that the pain is real in our lives and you know it’s okay. We don’t have to exert more energy than we have to put up a front. Be who you are and let your people see your flaws. It is amazing how much that can minister to people.

3 replies
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Chuck – I “feel” you.

    Maybe a helpful analogy would be a visit to the doctor. When I go to the doctor, the focus is on me. I am focusing on me and I want the Dr. to focus on me. He may have aches and pains, but what is that to me? I want him to focus on my aches and pains. What can I do about his aches and pains anyway? He should go to a doctor!

    I came to the place quite a while ago where I concluded that I have no right to my ‘stuff’ while I’m at church among the body of Christ. Though, in one sense, I have compartmentalized my life, I don’t feel ingenuine or hypocritical. Actually, it’s quite freeing. If my wife or my children or that elder or that difficult counselee is under my skin, the people I am ministering to don’t need to know this. What purpose would it serve? I can leave it and focus on the person or task at hand. I have come to the place that regardless of what I am going through, I am God’s man in God’s place to do God’s work – and what I am going through isn’t going to interfere with this.

    I don’t know if this is maturity or just a really warped way of dealing with personal challenges – but it is truly freeing for me to think this way and move in its reality.

    I also like your three ways of dealing with the challenge you describe in your blog.

  2. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chuck. Your sharing confirms what I believe to be true … that finding “safe” pastors/peers with whom to share my stuff is part of the process of retaining pastoral sanity.

    Your steps are good ones too.

    Tim is right. We do need to compartmentalize our lives for the sake of the ministry. Jesus was a man of sorrows but His Father was the One who heard about it. Gethsemane was a solo experience for Him. The things we go through need a Divine outlet, as well as appropriate human ones.

    Your authenticity is refreshing.

    • Tim Brown
      Tim Brown says:

      Compartmentalization doesn’t mean I am being inauthentic. In fact, it frees me up to be authentic. I am called to pastor the people charged to my care. I cannot do this if I am all wrapped up in me. To withhold from the church that I am in the middle of a fight with my wife doesn’t mean I am hiding my imperfection from them, it just means that I have put aside what will hinder me from being totally present with them.

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