How to Avoid Being Crushed By The Relentless Toll Of Ministry

The day I was told “you’ve got cancer” was darker than the other side of the moon.

Ministry life had been skipping along as usual.

However, my annual blood tests regime showed my PSA reading was trending high. A possible sign of prostate cancer.

My doctor arranged a biopsy and my new year equilibrium was shattered by my dark side of the moon day.

After getting a second opinion I decide to proceed with invasive surgery and have my prostate removed.

Surgery presented genuine risks.

Severe incontinence and sexual dysfunction were possibilities and countenancing these dreaded outcomes took an emotional toll.

Thankfully, I came through the procedure without those dreaded side effects and eleven years later I remain cancer free.

I pastored in our church for 30 years and during that time I not only survived cancer but mind-bending depression and my wife’s burnout.

How do you survive traumatic scenarios like a cancer diagnosis and continue to thrive in ministry?

  1. Prayer 

One of the more traumatic seasons of my life was a relational breakdown with a key mentor that led to 15 months of dark depression during which I suffered suicidal thoughts.

One thing I never stopped doing through this season was prayer.

My prayer life was weaker than a newborn babe however I refused to give up my place of prayer.

I regularly sat with the Lord, often speaking just a few words.

It was during one such prayer time that I had a vision in my mind.

I saw a hand reaching down from heaven holding me by the collar as my hands and legs dangled in the air like a rag doll. The Holy Spirit spoke and said, “Even if you let go, I never will”

Personal, private prayer has helped me avoid being crushed by the relentless toll of ministry.

  1. My wife, Dianne

Dianne is a consistent, rock like person who shows up and delivers what is needed.

She is like the proverbial rock of Gibraltar. Always there, always steady.

Her wisdom and support have kept me grounded when at times I wanted to desert my post as a pastor.

More than once, Dianne has navigated me away from ship sinking reefs and guided me to my destination.

I’ve known other couples where a wife has resented her husband’s pastoral role and struggled to partner with him in their endeavours. This produces immense tension in a marriage and can cause it to even breakdown.

Di and I found consistent and vulnerable communication of each other’s needs has helped us diffuse tensions in our ministry marriage.

  1. Friends

I have always made it a priority to invest in friends.

I’m not sure whether that’s my sanguine nature or Christ given wisdom.

Either way it’s enabled me to be a natural born networker who loves being around friends.

Friends have guide me, chided me and saved me from myself more than once.

And often it’s been pastor friends who have given me comfort as they intuitively understand my world and its pressures.

Open hearted pastors have normalised my struggles and made me realise I am not ‘the only one’ wading through the mud.

True friends lend us their eyes so we can see the other side.

  1. Jesus

I only need to look back to the pit from whence I was dug to get more perspective on my current problems.

I was a mess at 19, more confused than an 80-year-old at a rave party.

Christ shattered the immovable darkness that clouded my life, redeemed me, saving me from destruction.

When I look back at the chaotic state of my life and see where I am today, I feel a deep sense of debt to Christ. Walking away from his call would just feel so wrong.

However, it’s not just the past works of Jesus that have helped me get through the pain of ministry, it is also my ongoing walk with Him that has empowered to survive and yes, thrive.

I don’t know how pastors lead a ministry life without a vibrant walk with Christ.

What helps you survive?

John Findelke

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