Monday, March 4, 2013

A Word to Weary Pastors

“75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.” –Pastor Burnout

In the loneliness of the pastors office, with the walls closing in around him, the pastor mumbles to himself. “Why do I even do this?” With complaints and unhelpful criticism assaulting his fraying mind he stares at a stack of papers and books that cry for his attention. As he sits down on Friday afternoon to begin sermon preparation, his mind wanders to all of the ministers that are faltering, marriages crashing, teenagers rebelling. It’s no wonder that he asks the question—“Why am I doing this”.

Isaiah 50:4 tells this weary pastor why:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary”.

Sustaining the weary with a word from Yahweh is why this weary pastor will press on. The labor of study, pouring over Greek texts, boring commentaries, and difficult verses has a purpose. The pastor sweats in his office so that he might have “the tongue of those who are taught”. He does this because he knows that weary sheep need fed.

But what does the pastor do when he is weary?

Sometimes a pastor simply needs to buck up, stop whining, and get to the business of feeding the sheep. At other times the darkness is too deep. In either case what the weary pastor needs is a word from the Suffering Servant.

Pastor, Isaiah 50 is not fundamentally your song. It is the song of Another, known as the Suffering Servant. You and I are the weary in this song. The one who sings this song has already given his beard to be plucked and his cheeks to be struck. He has already set his face like a flint and climbed upon a Roman cross. And He has already been vindicated by the Lord. You and I need the finished work of the Suffering Servant in order to be faithful servants that suffer well.

As weary pastors we can press on because Christ has secured not only His own vindication but ours as well. Because of His work we too can “set our face like a flint” and get about our work of “sustaining with a word him who is weary.”

Pastor, you can endure because He already has. You know weariness. So also do the sheep under your care. Heal them with the words that have healed you. “The tongue of those who are taught” is crafted in the kiln of affliction.

May he “awaken our ears to hear as those who are taught”.

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