Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring.
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first. Job 42:10-12 HCSB
670 Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!
Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness. Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome” a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.
As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear. I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me. There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings. They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.
Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.
So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?
If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.
No, absolutely not.
While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42. It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.
It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.
And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.
He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.
And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.
25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB
There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it. To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger. This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.
Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all. And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”
For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on June 6, 2018, in Devotions, Poiema, st josemaria escriva, The Way, Theology in Practice and tagged apostolate, hope, intimacy with God, intimate relationship with God, Job, Ministry, mission, presence of Christ, Revelation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.