By Derwin L. Gray
How can pastors take on the burdens of everyone around them without becoming a burden themselves?
In recent months, I’ve heard from many pastors who feel overwhelmed and uncertain of how to minister in this season. Pastors have been asking how they can stay strong for those who lead.
But is “staying strong” necessary? Are we required to present an unflappable façade to those we shepherd?
A recent Lifeway Research survey identified several pandemic-related pressure points for Protestant pastors, which include: maintaining unity, caring for their flock from a distance, safety of their church members, personal exhaustion, and fear of lacking wisdom and direction for their ministries.
These concerns set the stage for sadness. Lament. Mourning.
Matthew 5 records Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus used the Greek word penthéō (mourn). Penthéō is the strongest word for mourning or lamenting in the New Testament.
It expresses loud crying, as if someone is wailing in agony over sin, suffering, injustice, and human tragedy. It describes a person whose heart is broken by what breaks God’s heart.
That sounds a lot like our current times. Many of us are experiencing mourning and lament. And it’s not only from the health crisis brought on by the pandemic.
We’re dealing with the clash of political parties in an election year and racial tensions that are once again on the rise in our country.
Pastor, you have permission to be human.
Over the years of sitting at Jesus’ feet, I’ve found that the more time I spend with him, the more I am connected to his heart.
And somehow, in a way that only He understands, I’m better person because my love for people and their plight increases.
Lamenting is a holy hurt. But the hurt is a pain that pushes us deeper into faith, hope, and love.
Deeper in my faith in Jesus and his redemptive purposes. Deeper into hoping, which is a knowing that one day all things will be made new. Deeper into loving people.
It also allows for me to receive the love of the Father and receive love from others.
Before we can minister to others, we must allow God to minister to us. There are even times when we must press into our community let others see that we are also hurting.
In the midst of human suffering, having someone who cares for you, comforts you, prays with you, reads Scripture over you, and nurtures you through the rising river of pain is a gift.
It’s as if God heals us as we become instruments of healing touch.
Those who lament will be cemented in God’s comfort.
God’s comforting grace will be experienced in the present through the Spirit’s presence, and in the future, when ultimate redemption is realized in the new heavens and new earth.
Just like the cross, out of great sorrow comes great comfort. Happy are those whose hearts break for what breaks God’s heart, for they will be comforted.
Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus. Through His cross and resurrection, our bodies, along with all of creation, will be made whole. But until that time, God lovingly enters our suffering and is broken on a cross to heal our brokenness.
Our hope is not a mere wish, but an assurance, because God through the Holy Spirit is pouring his love into our hearts.
Pastor, don’t miss what God is forming in you in this season. You don’t have to be strong.
The Holy Spirit is strong on your behalf. Your vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather a signpost to your community that you rely on the only One who has endless strength, capacity, and provision.
Your congregation needs to know you’re with them in their pain and suffering, and that as you cling to Jesus, they can cling to Him as well.
DERWIN L. GRAY (DerwinLGray) is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. He is a former NFL safety and is the author of Limitless Life, The HD Leader, and his latest, a release from B&H Publishing, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness.