Recently, I was drawn in by a book that I picked up somewhere in the past couple years, When Shepherds Weep: Finding Tears of Joy for Wounded Pastors. I decided to read it for two reasons. First, I thought it would promote deeper growth in me as a pastor who has experienced ministry pain, but who is currently in a season of unusual blessing. Keeping a biblical perspective of ministry is always a challenge but important. Second, I was preparing for a teaching opportunity to a gathering of pastors and wives whom I was confident were carrying their share of hurt. Thirty years of ministry have taught me that most pastors and wives silently endure many painful trials. As a result, their hearts are sometimes burdened beyond description under the potentially crushing weight of meeting the needs of others. Therefore, I wanted to speak wisely to their hearts and I thought this book might help.
In the closing chapter, “Regaining a Perspective of Ministry,” the following two paragraphs stood out to me.
Ministry will always have its ups and downs. There will be times when your ministry seems to be blossoming. There will be times when it seems as though it withers on the vine. There will be times when you are excited about what God is doing in the church, and there will be times when it seems as if God is absent. There will be times when people praise you for your ministry, and there will be times when you are confronted with harsh and unjust criticism. But in all the ups and downs of ministry nothing changes the reality that our reward is already attained. The present does not define our ministry or its success; our eternal reward, which is based upon faithfulness, defines the success and significance of our ministry.
So often in ministry we become focused upon the negatives rather than the benefits. We hear the criticisms rather than the compliments. We become discouraged by those who leave the church rather than be encouraged by those who demonstrate substantial growth. We remember the failures and easily forget the triumphs. There will always be issues and problems that cause us to be discouraged. But if these become our focal point, then we will lose perspective. We cannot (and should not) deny the problems and challenges, but we must never lose sight of the joys as well. When we focus upon the joy of serving Christ and his church, then we can have the perspective of Christ who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:2-3).Glenn Daman, When Shepherds Weep, 2015