April 4, 2011

Ministry Monday: Hurts

I thought being a ministry wife would be fun.

How fun, I thought, to be followed, to be respected, to be loved. Those self-centered, prideful cravings were (mostly) crucified within the first few years, when Jesus showed me what it meant that He came to serve, not to be served.

And although our lives in ministry have been exciting in so many ways--the relationships, the opportunities to speak God's grace and healing over people, the up-close-and-personal vantage point of God at work in this world--ministry isn't always fun.

Ministry takes you to the dark underbelly of the human condition, where the faithful reveal their unfaithfulness, where the masks are off, where the wolves are devouring the sheep. Where I've developed a hatred of sin and the master sinner. Where I've pleaded with God to return, to make things forever right. Where I've stood beside my husband in prayer, as his tired arms hold up the staff over the battle.

Sometimes the splatter of battle ends up on us, the ministers and the ministry wives. And it stings. Criticism.
Being Misunderstood.
Broken Relationships.

When it comes from outside the church, fine. But when it comes from within, it cuts to the heart, sends us into despair, and causes us to question whether it's all worth it.

What do we do with our silent hurts, real or perceived?

Stew in them, turning them over in our minds, keeping them alive? If so, we become the sinner rather than the sinned against and the poison of bitterness begins to take root.

But look what they did. 

Bitterness tells us that story. Remember because no one else will. Remembering will punish them. 

Jesus tells a different story. You are not enduring anything that I didn't endure. In fact, I endured more, to the point of shedding blood. But I forgave and you must too. Leave it with Me and I will handle it perfectly. (based on Heb 12:1-4)

That's what forgiveness is. Not trying to forget it, not saying it's ok, not an emotional release. It's simply leaving it with the One we can trust to handle the depth of our hurt and to discipline when discipline is in order.

Do your hurts seem too painful to forgive?

God forgave us all trespasses, wiping them out by nailing them to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) Who are we, who have been forgiven so much, to hold forgiveness from those who have offended us? 

Every time I am tempted to dwell on things that have offended me, the Lord reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant. The servant owed a large debt— about $12 million in today’s currency—to his master, but the master, in his mercy, canceled the debt and let him go free. The servant then saw a man who owed him a small debt— $20—and, after demanding to be repaid immediately, threw the man in jail when he could not pay the debt. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:21-35)

If we desire to be fruitful in ministry, we must stop poisoning our hearts with bitterness and unforgiveness.


Lord, help us.

How have you handled your hurts in ministry?