For me, ministry is most often filled with life change, faithful friends, and much joy. There have been times, though (even recently), when this work just feels lonely. If you ever feel this way, maybe one of these suggestions will help you like they’ve helped me over the years:
1. Don’t whitewash what you’re feeling by over-spiritualizing the situation. You might know the right words to say to yourself, but it’s also okay to just admit where your heart is. Healing doesn’t usually come before we’re honest with ourselves.
2. Cry out to God when you’re hurting. That’s what the psalmist often did (e.g., Psa 5:1-2, 18:4-6, 40:11-12, 69:1, 116:3-4, 140:6). If you’re feeling lonely, the answer is not to avoid God who so loves you; it is to run to Him. In fact, invite some prayer warriors to cry out to God with you.
3. Ask whether you have somehow contributed to your own loneliness. Sometimes the guilt of ongoing sin keeps us from wanting to be with others. For those of us who are introverts by nature, our choices to be alone don’t always help when we’re lonely.
4. Don’t lock your spouse and family out in the process. Loneliness has a way of strengthening like a coming storm if we don’t deal with it—yet we sometimes don’t turn to even those folks who love us most. At a minimum, be honest with your spouse.
5. Invite somebody to shepherd you through the loneliness. That person might be a pastor or a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Whoever it is, though, can’t help you much if they don’t know your situation. Trust that God has someone to walk with you.
6. Spend time ministering to someone who’s likely lonelier than you are. Loneliness is real, but it can also be self-centered at times. On the other hand, I’m struck by how serving others renews our hearts and brings us joy. As COVID regulations allow, visit a hospital with a chaplain. Give time to senior adults in retirement centers. Ask how you might assist in a local public or Christian school. Do something for someone else.
7. Reflect on times in the past when you were lonely, but God came through for you. Remember what the psalmist wrote: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned” (Psa 37:25). God is just as much with you in the lonely moments as He is in the joyous ones. Trust Him to come through for you again.
Let us know how your Church Answers family might pray for you.
Posted on February 15, 2022
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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And, important for me to remember when the little nitpicking gets to me. The product of a clergy is not something which is measurable in the social standard. Being faithful to your call to ministry is a witness – not measured by what you write, the fact *you* cannot make new members come to church, or any other “measurable” thing.