The Hardest Thing About Ministry

“Mom, sometimes it feels like we’ve been used or taken advantage of.  We were here when they needed us. We helped them, cared for them, and then they left. It’s like they don’t need us anymore…” My daughter and I were sitting at the kitchen table talking about our 20 plus years spent in ministry when she looked me square in the eyes and blurted it out.

I completely understood how she felt.

If you were to ask me what the hardest part of ministry has been, you might be surprised at my answer. One might think the hardest part might be the pay checks that, at times, barely paid the bills. But that wasn’t the hard part.

God has provided for us, without fail, every single need we have had. It was actually pretty cool to see all the different ways He provided for our needs. Anonymous envelopes taped to the front door or placed on the front seat of our car.  Gifts left on our front porch. Friends dropping by to unload their car full of groceries into our freezer.

Not getting paid very much? That is what has caused us to trust, and wait, and rejoice as God miraculously provided over and over again!

Has it been the late night hours spent with people who need to talk?  No.  Those are some of the most fulfilling and exciting times. Times we are able to witness God doing a work in the heart of another, and in our own hearts as well! Tears shed. Hearts bonded. Laughter. Exhaustion. Purpose.

Has it been the almost endless knocking on our revolving front door?  No.  Those are the God ordained moments that no one has planned for.  The times we are able to put another plate on the dinner table,  scoot over and make more room on the couch, pour another cup of coffee, and live life with another precious person.

Is it the evenings that are interrupted? Well, although that can be hard at times, it isn’t the hardest thing. Most of the time we just pull those who show up into our family. They became a part of whatever we are doing.  It’s not really an interruption at all!

Is it that most of what we do is never noticed or seen? No. What we have done has become our way of life. We don’t see it as anything that great. We are just doing what we were called to do.  Living our lives with others.  It’s become as natural to us as breathing.

So – what is the hardest thing about ministry?

The hardest part is when they leave.  They eventually move on and we are left with an empty space. Yes. It can sometimes feel like we’ve been used or taken advantage. Like they just don’t need us anymore.  And maybe there have been times that we were taken advantage of. But mostly I think that we are in people’s lives for a season.  A season in our lives and a season in their lives.  And as hard as it is, we need to remember that it is a privilege to be a part of their lives, if only for a short time, and we are better people because of all those that we have had the privilege of knowing.

God has taken the things that should seem the hardest things, and He made it our way of living. The norm. It has been a divinely, glorious, amazing work of God.

How incredibly blessed we have been!

An introduction. A dialogue. A connection. I pull you in. I scoot over and make room. I make room for you to sit next to me. I make room for you and I want you to stay.

Talking. Laughing. Sharing. Praying. Connection.

You become a part of who I am. I can’t help it! I learn from you. I study you. I breathe you in. You influence. You enhance. Knowing you…sitting beside you…makes me a better person..

But sometimes you move on.You stand up, pack up, and walk away. You leave an empty space beside me. Empty. I look beside me and see the empty space. There is an ache. I miss you. I will always miss you.

The person I am right now is made up of all the people who came and sat down beside me. Those I have learned from and studied and breathed in. Those who have influenced and enhanced my life. Those I have known  have made me a better person. Those who have stayed and those who have left.  

All I have loved.

All I have been privileged to know. Every person that I have scooted over for and made room for and sat next to have been a gift from God. And I am so thankful to have known each one.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ…It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…”