How to Endure Suffering in Ministry

Sometimes when we open up our homes, hearts, and lives to people we get hurt. Pain seems unavoidable in ministry. When our prayers become filled with groaning and tears, how do we keep from becoming cynical, frustrated, and resentful?

Whether you stand behind a podium, sit in a circle with a small group, or build blocks on the floor with a toddler, I believe God’s word has encouragement for you.

Metaphors are a gift to the suffering heart. Psalm 5 opens up a treasure chest and holds out a beautiful jewel: God is our shield. 

Verse 12 says, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as a shield.” 

What is God shielding us from? Words. Remember, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). When falsities, destruction, flattery, and rebellion rise up against us, we need a shield. The people we serve may utter untrue things. Psalm 5 says some people may operate from a place of inner destruction. God’s word gives helpful imagery. Imagine a throat being an open grave (Psalm 5:9). Wickedness exhales. The mouth opens with words that seek to bury character. These words can do so much damage that things seem irreparable. Oftentimes this looks like abuse, slander, or gossip. It can even look like a flattering tongue. That oily slick tongue is described by Spurgeon as a wolf wetting a lamb before sinking his teeth in to devour him.

When we experience these kinds of words, it’s natural to want to shield ourselves. How are we shielding ourselves? Do we hold people at arms length to guard our hearts? Do we ignore pain by being productive? Do we numb out by scrolling on our phones? Do we hide behind knowing everyone and keeping a full schedule? The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery explains,“Having the right type of shield in battle could mean the difference between life and death.”

The good news is we can quit trying to shield ourselves, because Jesus is our shield. Psalms 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” 

Jesus invites us to “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by” (Isaiah 26:20). 

With God our “weeping has a voice–a melting, plaintive tone, and ear-piercing shrillness, which reaches the very heart of God” (Spurgeon). And even if our words are inarticulate mumbles, God comprehends them.

With Christ we have a safe place to lament, to be protected, and to be innocent. Matthew 13:43 reminds us that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

In Christ, we have a refuge. We have a place to rejoice. We have a place to worship. We have a place to love. We have a place to feel favor. God’s favor is our shield. (Psalm 5:12).

When every other word pushes us down, pushes us out, we have a God who invites us in. He protects us from every enemy. And even better, as we find refuge in this Jesus. He not only guards us from wicked people; He also shields us from becoming like them.

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