October 9, 2013

Think This, Not That

When we first entered ministry, my mom relayed what my childhood pastor's wife said when she heard I had married a pastor: "I will always pray for her." I thought this was an odd and somewhat deflating reaction and that tells you everything about the misconceptions and romantic ideas I had about what life in the ministry would be like.

After 14 years in ministry, I now know why she responded that way. Ministry is rewarding, and I saw that through my pastor's wife ministry and influence in my church growing up, but in ministry, I've discovered, you're also doing constant battle with discouragement. It's just kind of always there, ready to pounce through criticism or complaints or through internal insecurities and feelings of fruitlessness. You're forever fighting to remember the joys and rewards of serving the Lord and to live by His encouragement.

As I learned in the early days, I can't live for a minute on romantic ideas of ministry or even by giving myself a little pep-talk in moments of difficulty or apprehension. I must live and minister by faith or I'll simply wither up from discouragement.
I've learned to combat recurring thoughts, whether true or untrue, with the Lord's encouragement as given in His Word. So taking a cue from Eat This, Not That, let's apply it to our thought life and find some encouragement in the Lord today:

Don't think this:
I can't do this thing called ministry. I'm not a good pastor's wife or a good partner for my husband.
Think this:
I am not adequate, but God has given me the Holy Spirit, who empowers me and makes me adequate for what God calls me to do.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency (competency, adequacy) is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant. 
2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Don't think this:
I am alone. No one understands or can relate to my life as a pastor's wife.
Think this:
I never walk alone. And the One who walks with me understands sacrifice and service way more than I do.

Let your conduct be without covetousness [of other people's lives]; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5

The heart knows its own bitterness. And a stranger does not share its joy.
Proverbs 14:10
(for how this verse applies, please read this post)

Don't think this:
I am not making an impact. My ministry is not significant.
Think this:
I can't always see the impact of what I'm doing, and this is often a very good thing. But just because I can't see it doesn't mean God isn't currently watering the seeds I've sown. Results aren't my responsibility, but faith is my success!

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 
1 Corinthians 12:18

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

Don't think this:
I am a disappointment to other people, or my husband has disappointed people, and I am crushed and paralyzed because of it.
Think this:
My goal is to please God. If I am being faithful with what He's given me, I am pleasing to Him.

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin [of people-pleasing] which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the [specific] race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus....who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.
Hebrews 12:1-2

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

Don't think this:
I should be doing more. (said while breaking out the checklist of the perfect pastor's wife)
Think this:
My job is to abide in Christ and follow His leading, not to set my own agenda or play some role I think I should play.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Don't think this:
This is too hard. I want to quit.
Think this:
Because of the mercy and grace of Christ, I can endure. And there is reward for enduring!

Therefore, since we have this ministry [through the power of the Holy Spirit], as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
2 Corinthians 4:1, 16-18

Don't think this:
I'm discouraged. Nothing good is happening.
Think this:
God is always at work! He's never sleeping, never stopping, never discouraged or weary. And He is at work in my life and in the lives of others around me.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
Isaiah 40:28

The one who called you is faithful, and He will do it! 
1 Thessalonians 5:24

Your turn: What are your go-to verses when you're discouraged in ministry? Let us know in the comments so we can all build our arsenal for combatting discouragement!