When Pain Hits Home
Three keys to caring for your family through difficult seasons
Life is hard. Life in ministry can be even harder. I’ve heard it said, “If you aren’t in pain, you aren’t leading.”
Pain comes with the territory, and it can show up in a variety of ways. A staff member going rogue. People leaving the church. Financial stress. Marital problems. A child struggling with the pressures of being a pastor’s kid.
Whatever the source, the stresses of ministry often spill over into every other area — including the home. Here are three things I’ve learned to do while caring for my own family through painful seasons:
It may seem selfish to think about my needs when people I care about are hurting. But I’ve come to realize that if I’m unhealthy, I can’t help others.
An empty glass cannot refresh a thirsty soul. Taking care of my needs puts me in a better position to minister to my family and my congregation. Simple things like going for a walk, reading a book, sipping a cup of coffee, or taking a nap can release tension and help me refocus.
Of course, time alone with God is essential. Jesus often slipped away from the crowds and His disciples to replenish His soul through prayer. The church can wait. I can write my sermon later. When the pressure is on, I press in to God. His sustaining grace and power are what allow me to go the distance and care for myself, my family and my church.
I have a hard time asking for help. But secrecy and isolation are the work of the enemy. The reality is, my family and I need help — and not just help from God. We need the help of other people.
I can’t handle all the challenges of life and ministry on my own. That’s why God says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).
The stresses of ministry often spill over into every other area — including the home.
Here’s what I’ve discovered: The willingness of others to help exceeds my willingness to ask. Yet I’m learning to reach out for support. It may be a matter of picking up the phone and asking a friend to preach on the weekend so I can focus on my family. Or my wife and I may accept another couple’s generous offer to take the kids for a weekend. We’ve even experienced the blessing of people making us meals or coming to clean our house during especially difficult times.
I also have godly friends I can talk to about what I’m going through. A listening ear and an encouraging word can make a tremendous difference. (Some church leaders also benefit from professional counselors who can help them gain perspective and offer practical tools for managing stress.)
Most importantly, I’ve invited Spirit-filled people I love and respect to fast and pray for specific needs in my family. I trust these people implicitly to protect my family’s privacy while bombarding heaven with righteous prayers. There’s nothing like knowing you have “watchmen on your walls” looking out for you and your family (Isaiah 62:6).
Rely on God
I’ve learned that when I navigate it correctly, pain can make me stronger. It teaches me to rely more on God. I trust Him to use even the most difficult situations for His glory and to work in all things for the good of my family (Romans 8:28).
When life is painful, I don’t beat myself up for what I could have done differently in the past or worry about what I should do in the future. Instead, I focus on what God would have me do today. What next step can I take right now to help my family move forward?
If I persevere, I know God will help me discover the purpose for the pain. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Whatever you and your family are going through, trust that God is with you. Don’t give up. Your family is counting on you.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Influence magazine.