Healing From Deep Ministry Hurts

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The first article I posted in this mini-series was about our visit to a hidden lake in the mountains of Colorado called Burned By Deep Ministry Hurts. As we drove up to the Trapper’s Lake area there were burned trees from a previous year’s forest fire, they stuck up like toothpicks, monuments of life now hurt and dead. Being burned in ministry can leave us feeling dead like that forest, with little hope of new life.

Burns in the ministry are caused by traumatic experiences that deeply wound you by a person or people within your church, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or a member of the community or family that has sought to do you harm.

These fires from others can be directly aimed at you publicly by fiery darts or they can be like arson, hidden fires built in secret, only to be discovered when the troubles have been discovered after the smoke and flames have done considerable damage. Burns are not usually caused by the normal service-to-service grievances of people.

These burns from ministry can last for a long time. They may need to be cleaned on a regular basis until they begin to heal, because usually the result of extreme ministry heartache is a battle with forgiveness and bitterness. It may also mean that a choice has to be made to leave your ministry and take time to rest and regroup (not quit entirely). It may mean that you need to stay to help the hurt sheep heal alongside yourself. The possibilities are endless depending on the hurt and the ministry needs.

There will be a time of regrowth if you respond properly to life’s circumstances and allow God to work in your heart through them. The main photo (above) is a picture of a wildflower taken on the same day as I took the photos in the first article of the forest. Beauty has returned to the once burned forest.

Galatians is a great restoration book. God spoke to me during one of my battles of being burned specifically from chapters 5 and 6.

Galatians 5:7-10 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

Ye did run well – Paul comments that the Galatians had done a good job in the race of life. God also notices the race you were running before you were hurt so badly.

Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? – Apparently Paul is giving the Galatians a little exhortation because they stopped running. Why did they stop? Someone hindered them. Paul did not allow them to get off the hook so easily because they stopped running, he gently reminded them that they had stopped obeying the truth.

When we are hurt it is easy to come up with excuses to blame our pain on a person or thing.  Our faith can dwindle as we substitute once godly living for any and everything else because we do not want to fix the hurt or get up and get going again. Paul points out that we should not allow any person or group of people to hinder us from obeying the truth.

Healing cannot happen without obedience.

This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. – God calls people into the ministry, and His calling is without repentance.  Romans 11:29 says, For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. To change our mind about ministry and just quit can be dangerous, God’s will does not always change because we are going through difficulties in our ministry. If you are persuaded to quit or to do any other thing besides what God called you to do, then the persuasion did not come from God.

Please see The Differences Between Quitting and Resting if you have questions about whether you should quit or rest.

Yes, there will be times where someone will be forced from their ministry because of a particular person or situation. If this has happened to you, God still has a plan, purpose, and calling for your life.

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. – This verse is familiar because it is preached  regularly in regard to sin, a little ounce of sin will grow, like yeast makes bread rise. Within the context of the verse, I believe it is safe to say, the leaven is within the person that has stopped running the race. It pinpoints how the small thoughts of quitting will persuade you to go specifically against the calling of God. As you begin to step back from the fire of the situation, please do not let doubts enter your mind that are contrary to God’s will. Running away is not a proper solution and does not allow God to work His original plans.

I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: – Paul gently encourages the Galatians, saying in a way, “I know you have been tempted to walk away from the truth, and I know you know that a little sin will mess up your whole life, but I have confidence that because and through the Lord you will not change your mind and stop running in the race God has called you to…”

Wow, isn’t it amazing what a little belief in someone (and the Lord) can do!? I find this part of the passage so encouraging! Would to God when we are healing from difficult circumstances that there would be someone to walk up and recognize the hurt and cheer us on to keep going in the ministry marathon. “You can do it, I know you can!” Those little words of encouragement can be priceless in such hardships and the complications of ministry.

If you receive encouragement during these times please do not take it for granted. Cherish the people that will cheer you on to keep following God’s will for your life. You will be wise to never shun them or shut them out. Embrace the encouragers, wise counselors, and peace makers in your life, and let them know their words have made a difference in your life.

But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. – Watch out! Paul is really making what sounds like a threat or a promise toward the type of people who cause hurt to Christians. He gives a warning shot, “God’s gonna git ’em!” Those that cause trouble and hinder God’s children, even if they are fellow church members, have judgment coming.

While we do not rejoice in the judgments that are headed toward people who have hurt and hindered us, we do need to rest in God’s ability to avenge the hurt. We are not responsible to take things into our own hands. God will work on our behalf.

Romans 12:19 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

The reason why I chose this passage in the context of healing from deep ministry hurts is because I know how tempting it is to want to walk away and pursue other endeavors that will not remind us of the hurt.  Most people do not realize the sober reality of their actions may cause a ministry, marriage, or family to burn to the ground because they have made the choice to play with fire. When people do not see the big picture we must remember…

God has given us a high calling to serve Him and He called you knowing hurts would happen. He found you worthy to bear the pain because He knew you would become better for it.

Final Thoughts

God will exchange the ashes of the fires for beauty, heal your hurts, and regrow you and strengthen you.

Keep the faith and keep running dear friends, and as my pastor says, “we’re the best God’s got, so we can’t quit now.”

Burned By Deep Ministry Hurts

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As we drove last summer toward a hidden lake among the mountains of Northern Colorado there was the beauty of the forest surrounding us. Tall dark green pine trees on both sides of the road clinging to the sides of the mountains. It was a magnificent sight to see until we came into vast expanses of burned pine trees standing up from the ground like toothpicks. The evidence of forest fires from previous years went on for miles. The ground was also littered with fallen trees that had slid down the mountains and hills, making the beauty of the landscape dissipate to a very disturbing sight.

Burned Trees Collage

Trapper’s Lake

A few minutes into our hike I noticed patches of trees that had been saved from the forest fires, but all around them stood the skeletons of the forest. The burned trees stood as monuments of a life that once was vibrant and full of its God-given purpose. New grass had begun to grow around the burned remains of trees, some vines and flowers had grown around them, but the remains looked unbecoming in the landscape of the hidden lake.

I took pictures because in my heart I knew I would write about being burned in the ministry. As much as I hated to see the evidence of the trials of that particular forest, it was beautiful to see the lush grass and wildflowers blooming with insects finding their way around to pollinate the other flowers. Life was returning but the scars stood as evidence of the hurt.

I realize as many of you read this that I am not a seasoned veteran of the ministry and probably  burns and hurts will come to our lives that I do not even wish to think of or imagine. I had a deep ministry hurt occur as I served as a secretary in our church when I was single. It took me many years to forgive the particular person involved, and I had to deal with the roots of bitterness I had in my heart toward them over and over. It does still hurt to think about, but the thoughts do not control me anymore, because the Lord continued to teach me about forgiveness.

Ministry hurts shake you to the core and sometimes leave you lifeless like a burned pine tree. It messes with your mind, it creates doubt in your heart toward people, and it may even leave you with questions about whether God really cares. While I have recovered and new blooms have also come into my life and our current ministry, I still remember what it was like.  I hope this article will give you some good helps on what you can do to help yourself or someone else that has been burned by the ministry.

1. Acknowledge the hurt and talk to God about it.

Each life situation goes across God’s sacred desk before He approves it or allows it. He knows about the hurt you are thinking of now. The people and situations that have caused it and the disappointment and betrayal you may be feeling. Be honest when you speak to God about them, you don’t have to question Him or be angry with Him. In humble acknowledgement you can go to Him as a child goes to His father and tells him the problems, doubts, and fears he has.

The gospel song says it all when it says, “When you don’t feel like praying pray.” You may not feel like it, you may not want to, but you should do it anyway.

2. When your thoughts go a mile a minute in every direction from the temptation to exact vengeance upon someone to utter despair, think of God.

This verse in particular spoke to my heart during one of my hardest trials.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

While others may be against us and the reality of the hurt may set in, we must ALWAYS find comfort in the Lord. All other worldly comforts, gossip, backbiting, drinking alcohol, abusing pain medications, forsaking our immediate family members are not the cure. Our comfort must come from God alone.

3. Allow yourself time to heal from the burns.

The grass in the forest did not begin to grow again in the forest until time had passed after the forest fire. Sometimes after significant ministry problems we expect (and other people expect) that we should bounce back to our original self and be ready to fight the good fight of faith with vigor and resilience. This is not realistic for someone who has been wounded deeply.

Think of Elijah the prophet, this story is very different in many ways from the purpose of this post, but I think the love in which God ministered to him is an example of how He cares for us when are hurt by the ministry.

I Kings 19: 5-8 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

God ministered to Elijah through the angel. I believe God sends special gifts of blessings in our hurts to help us recuperate and gain our strength again. But it takes some time. We may not be able to take a break from ministry during these times but we should be resting on days where we can and allowing God to minister to our hearts.

4. Take care of your daily personal needs. 

One of the hardest things about deep hurts is that our body can manifest the pain in many ways from anxiety to depression to an unsettled sadness or burning in your chest. Your teeth may itch or you may suddenly burst into tears. Take care of your health, mind, and spirit during these times so that the physical manifestations of your stress will subside.

Eat healthy foods regularly, take naps and get to bed on time, get up and bathe and put on clean clothes. When we are in the initial response from burns and hurts in our lives we sometimes go into shock and even the simplest tasks go undone. When you will get yourself up and ready for the day and carry on with normal activities, it will help you heal faster.

5. Take Care of Your Spiritual Needs

I mentioned earlier that taking care of your thoughts and mind is comforting yourself with God’s blessings.

The spiritual man inside of us when burned needs special attention. We still need to read our Bible, seek out God’s answers, and go to the Balm of Gilead to allow Him to heal our hearts. When He speaks we should respond correctly. The book of Psalms can be especially helpful to read during hard times.

Putting off necessary steps of healing, such as making things right with the person that caused the pain, can be difficult. Disobeying God’s promptings will prolong the hurt. Every situation for every person is different, we must be obedient to what He tells us to do. It may be committing to pray for the people involved, doing something nice for them (even if they don’t deserve it), or making a decision to not load our spouse down with talking about the situation all the time. You will know when God speaks to your heart.

Conclusion

I will never tell you that the burns of ministry are easy, that you should be this or do that by a specific time period. There should be a time of healing and recovery in your life, these times and situations may redefine your life but should not redefine your standing with the Lord. There is a future and a plan He has for us. After we are healed our job is to help others when they are going through their own hurts.

The next article on this topic will be Healing From Deep Ministry Hurts.