Home Pastors How (and Why) to Put Your Worst Foot Forward

How (and Why) to Put Your Worst Foot Forward

In my darkest hour, in those months of facing into the abyss, there were two people who put themselves on permanent call for me. These two carried me day and night, with constant reminders that though I was down, I was not out. Though I was afraid, I was not alone. Though I had to face some demons, I was surrounded by an angelic presence. Perhaps these two, also, were my guardian angels.

These two were my brother, Matt, and my wife, Patti. Both were outstanding healers because both had suffered with anxiety and depression, too.

Afflicted does not mean ineffective.

Damaged does not mean done.

A Christian’s affliction can also, ironically, also become an occasion for hope. After about two years serving as pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, one of our members told me that he thinks I am a good preacher and that he is entirely unimpressed by this. He told me that the moment he decided to trust me, the moment he decided that I was his pastor, was when I told the whole church that I have struggled emotionally and that I have been in counseling for many years.

Then it dawned on me. As a pastor and as a man, my afflictions may end up having greater impact than my preaching or my vision ever will. In the end, it may be that the best fruit that came from ministry was not from the times I put my best foot forward, but rather the times I put my worst foot forward.

It is also helpful to remember that nearly all of the Psalms—and nearly the entire Bible, for that matter—were written from dark, depressed, wrecked, and restless places.

An Invitation to Rest

Our pain is also an invitation into Sabbath rest. When you are laid flat and there’s nothing you can do except beg for help, Jesus is eager to meet you in that place. It is from there that he summons the weary and heavy-laden and the wrecked and restless to come to him and learn from him, to see and savor his humility and gentleness of heart…that we might find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:28-30)

For an afflicted body or soul, there is nothing quite like an easy yoke and a light burden under which to process the pain.

Often anxiety and depression have come upon me as I have lost my way. Instead of resting in Jesus, I have sought validation from the crowds, wanting fans instead of friends, wanting to make a name for myself instead of making the name of Jesus famous. This is always a dead-end street, but there are times when my heart still goes there.

Affliction has been God’s way of reminding me that I don’t have to be awesome. He has not called me to be awesome, or spoken well of and liked, or a celebrity who is famous like a rock star. He has foremost called me to be loved, to be receptive to his love, and to find my rest in his love. He has called me to remember that because of Jesus, I already have a name. I will be remembered and celebrated and sung over even after I am long gone, because he is my God and I am his person. He is my Father and I am his son. And on that day into eternity, there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.

As the little girl once recited for her Sunday School teacher, “The LORD is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” Sometimes the misquotes are the best and truest quotes, yes?

Kierkegaard said that the thorn in his foot enabled him to spring higher than anyone with sound feet. The Apostle Paul said something similar about the thorn in his flesh. The thorn kept him from becoming prideful. It kept him humble. It kept him fit for God and fit for the people whom God had called him to love and serve. There is glory in weakness. There is a power that is made perfect in that place. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Though I would not wish emotional pain or melancholy on anyone, I am strangely thankful for the unique way that this affliction has led me, time and again, back into the rest of God.

As my friend and mentor Tim Keller is fond of saying…

All you need is nothing. All you need is need.

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.