Will you afford me a little story before making my point?
A man comes into the lunchroom and opens his lunchbox and gripes, “Aw man, tuna sandwich—I hate tuna!” He turns to you and asks if you want to trade, but you don’t like tuna either so with a sour face he chomps down on the tuna sandwich.
The next day, same situation. He opens his lunchbox and again, “Sick! Tuna again!” He grimaces but needs to eat, so down it goes.
The third day comes and again, you watch him go through the ritual of complaints and crying. Finally, you’ve had enough. You speak up and say, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to stop making tuna sandwiches?” He replies, “I’m not married—I make my own lunch.”
Pastors, you make your own sandwiches.
From where I stand, I can’t see over the mountain of ‘complaint blogs’ pastors are writing these days:
“13 Reasons Pastors Cry at Night”
“Your Pastor Probably Wants to Quit”
“What I’ve Always Wanted to Say as a Pastor”
Maybe we aren’t trying to complain, pastors, but I imagine to the church members who read them they are hearing a subtle (or not so subtle) air of grievance. “My job is miserable, no one understands me!” Or even worse, they hear, “You all really suck the life out of me with your problems and sin.”
I would be the first to amen the ‘confessions’ blogs as I am overworked, often discouraged and take everything in the church personally. But the reality is, I make my own sandwich. My church isn’t to blame, I am. My schedule isn’t to blame, I am. It’s a sandwich I made, and instead of complaining and chomping through it—I want to find joy in it.
The Joy of Ministering
The writer of Hebrews points the way, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to run with endurance by looking to Jesus. But he develops that idea by showing us that Jesus had a race—a race that was hard, a race where no one understood him yet, it was a race that he ran with joy. Jesus’ joy is offered to you, dear pastor! He desires it to be full, vibrant and seen (John 15:11).
In The Lord of The Rings, Gandalf the wizard has a lot of pressure. He is tasked with traveling to gather the world’s powers to defeat Sauron, to do what he can to ensure Frodo and Sam destroy the ring and the daily advance of evil in the world. (It is exactly like a Wednesday for you pastors!) But at one point in the book, all the pressure builds on him and Gandalf begins to laugh. And he laughs heartily! It’s a joy that explodes in adversity, a joy that we as Christians have been given by the Holy Spirit.