Years ago, I heard a pastor tell of a man who came to the church office in need of assistance. When the pastor asked his name, he said it was “Hard Times.” With a smile the pastor said, “No really, what is your name?” The man pulled out his I.D. and sure enough it was “Hard Times.”
There are days when those in ministry leadership positions feel like they should have a nametag with that same name on it. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Hard times are part of the reality of those who hope to live faithfully in Christ.
Jesus told us that we would have trouble. He said in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I am in conversations with ministry leaders weekly — sometimes daily — who are facing challenges and situations they never imagined. Sometimes these issues are small and can be easily addressed, while other times they are overwhelming and may require a season away from a particular call or assignment.
What is the source of hard times experienced by ministry leaders and what can we do about them?
Here are three sources:
1. Some of them are satanic in origin. The book of Job, coupled with 1 Peter 5:8, is a clear biblical reminder that we have an enemy, our enemy is at work and our enemy has a goal of destroying the work, witness and well-being of followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some hard times really can be traced back to the devil.
2. Some of them are from other people. There is a pack of coyotes residing near our home in east Jefferson County. I hear them some mornings very early when I am walking my dog. A coyote pack, according to one online article, is made up of an alpha male and female mated pair with a few pups. While they may be few when they start to howl, it sounds like several dozen. It can be that way in church work also. There may only be a few voices but, in our minds, they can sound like hundreds. Sometimes ministry trouble comes from other people.
3. Some of them are self-imposed. My horror movie days go way back to the ’70s and ’80s when every home had a landline telephone. In one movie, a frightened babysitter was receiving threatening phone calls. The police were monitoring the situation and alerted her that they had traced the call and it was coming from inside the house. Her trouble was an inside job. For many of us in Christian leadership, at least some of our trouble is self-imposed.
So, what should we do when it feels like our name should be changed to, “Hard Times?”
First, we should pray and ask God for help and believe that God will in fact help us. We are His children, and He will help us.
Next, we should remember that God is sanctifying us, and that any leadership assignment is part of His sanctifying process. It is a setting where we will discover things about ourselves and others that will bring us back to greater dependence on Him.
Third, we should talk to others. Having honest conversations with Christian friends who know us well can provide a different and helpful perspective on our troubles.
Fourth, we should view them as learning and growth opportunities. While going through challenging times, it is important to maintain a growth mindset in order to avoid discouragement and bitterness.
Finally, we must surrender ourselves to Christ who loves us and leads us — all the time remembering that as difficult as our troubles are that, in light of eternity, they will be viewed as momentary light afflictions that God was using for a greater glory and purpose.
May the Lord himself sustain you and strengthen you as you walk through your challenging times.