Throughout my years in the ministry I have struggled with disappointments. Anyone serving the church knows what I mean. We enter the field flush with high expectations and boundless dreams, and then reality hits hard. Churches decline under our watch. Complaints shake our confidence. Members fail in their personal lives. The list goes on.
How does one handle these disappointments? Some eventually burnout and leave their calls. A few others simply drift from place to place looking for a greener pasture. Some live in denial and may try to blame others to deflect it from their own conscience. As I mused on this dilemma I came up with a short list that may be helpful to anyone who has been down this lonely road. I would have liked to have had a neat list of 10, but even that fell short of expectations.....
1. Accept the things you cannot change. Not everything is in your control. You cannot make people live better lives. You cannot force them into more moral choices. You can only teach and direct and advise. You are not God. Only He can change hearts and lives through His Word.
2. Celebrate small victories. While we wait for the big victories that never come we miss out on positive developments along the way. Enjoy the visit you made that lifted a person's day because you cared. Changes come one person at a time.
3. Recognize the possibilities of what you cannot see. So often God is working invisibly outside of our visual field. Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it isn't happening. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight.
4. Set goals to improve. So you failed and fell on your face. It's not the end. You can do better. But you won't improve on those mistakes if you don't set concrete goals to correct them.
5. All failures are not your failures. Too often we take responsibility for the failings of other people as if they were our own. This point dovetails nicely with #1 above. Let others own up to their own mistakes. You have enough of your own to worry about!
6. History can be your friend. People forget and so can you. Going back to a church anniversary this year reinforced this point for me. People often graciously remember more of the good than the bad - at least sometimes. Given enough time the petty little mistakes will fade from memory and be replaced by the significant things you were able to accomplish by God's grace. At least that's my hope....
7. Everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God. You're not the only one who sins. It's everyone's condition. Stop letting people make you believe that they are perfect and you are the only one that failed. Oh, and by the way - YOU ARE FORGIVEN IN CHRIST!
8. Accept your limitations and celebrate your gifts. Yes, you aren't good at everything. No one is (despite the fact that some want us to believe this.) On the other hand, God has blessed you uniquely with gifts to share with the world. Use those gifts and resist dwelling on what you can't do.
Well, that list is certainly not exhaustive. Maybe you can add to it. I'd be glad to hear your insights!
The Lord be with you....