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How My Work as a Pastor Nearly Killed Me!

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. —Hebrews 12:3

Hebrews 12:3 is a verse I can’t seem to get out of my head these days. It’s just sort of there, buzzing in the background like the hum of a refrigerator. I can almost ignore it, and then, suddenly, I can’t.

Weariness is a part of life. I know that there are seasons when it seems as though I’m running through thick mud. But here, the writer of Hebrews is pointing out that there is an exercise we can do that will relieve us from weariness.

Now the weariness that is being referred to here isn’t so much a physical weariness; rather, it’s an emotional weariness, a weary spirit. Anyone who’s doing anything knows that there are times when it seems like no matter what you do, there just isn’t enough juice in the tank to meet the challenges ahead. People are difficult, work can be challenging, and at times the pace at which life is happening, both good and bad, just saps us of our ability to manage well.

A couple of years ago, I had a six-month stretch where it felt like I was drowning. My staff thought I was going to either quit or drop dead. The ironic part is that things were going good! Looking back, I was running at a pace that no human can sustain. I was sprinting a marathon. It nearly killed me.

But other times, things are not going so good. Every one of us goes through fire. Every one of us gets pinched in the hinges of relationships and work. What then?

The writer of Hebrews says that we should consider Jesus. We should think and meditate on Jesus. Specifically, we should spend some time thinking about Jesus and his passion—when he faced the biggest challenges of his life. We should consider Jesus on the cross. We should consider the events that put Jesus on the cross.

We are tempted to believe that doing so would make us depressed—I mean, Jesus gets betrayed by a close friend, left by all his friends in his time of need, tried unfairly and then nailed to a cross. It doesn’t sound encouraging, but mysteriously, this story is a reservoir of encouragement and grace.

For starters, it get us to put our attention back on Jesus. Looking after our own life and our own well being is draining because we are containers, not fountains. Jesus is a fountain, and everything about him is oozing life, even the hard parts of his journey. We were made to be filled with the fullness of God, which will never happen when we are only looking at our current circumstances—it’s a negative feedback loop. It will not fill, satisfy or restore.

Secondly, we are not alone in all our challenges. We are in good company. Hardship is one of the currents of God’s kingdom. Now let me say that hardship isn’t a part of God’s ultimate plan. He did not design us with the intent of punishment and tears. He gets no pleasure out of our pain. But because life is complicated, and because our choices matter, pain is a part of the process—a part that we do not endure alone! We do not have a God who inflicts pain, we have a God who absorbs pain and recycles it! We do not have a God who sits in an ivory tower, we have a God who has come down into the dirt and the hurt and felt it all. We have a brother.

Finally, it’s possible to go through life, the joy and the pain, without becoming weary, without losing heart. And I’m not talking about becoming numb or an isolated avoider. Some of us see the clouds of trouble piling up on the horizon and turn around and move in another direction. That will never work. In fact, I’m convinced that most of our weariness comes from trying so hard to find a way around rather than going through. We don’t have to be unfeeling zombies. We don’t have to run twice the distance to avoid difficulty. There is grace in the Son of God to go through! There is grace in the story of Jesus that can bring energy to our dead hearts. There is grace flowing from the savior’s veins that can fill all our empty spaces and give us life!

Consider Jesus!  

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Adam Russell is a worship leader turned pastor. He also leads a worship band known simply as "The Embers." He and his wife, Heather, along with their three children, live and minister in central Kentucky.