I wasn’t feeling well this past weekend, but it was my week to bring the message at church. I knew it was going to be a message that someone needed to hear, because I needed to hear it myself. But, I did not expect to get the number of personal responses that I received. It’s not uncommon to hear “great message” in the lobby after church. I’m not saying those accolades are disingenuous, but it often feels like some people say things like that because it’s an expected courtesy.
This weekend was different. After every service, there were text messages on my phone from people describing how the message spoke directly to them. It was my prayer, as it is every time I speak, that God’s Word would penetrate deep into our hearts. Even as I was reading through the original manuscript sent out earlier in the week from our main campus, I was praying for hearts to be open to hearing exactly what God wanted them to receive.
It was very encouraging to hear that God spoke clearly through my tired body and cough-weakened voice. I even started to feel physically better and my wife and I gave someone a ride home instead of leaving her to wait for an Uber ride. By the time we got home, however, I was pretty well drained and much of the afternoon is now just a blur.
Finding Myself In a Darkroom
As Sunday evening was coming to a close, I was cleaning up from dinner and noticed my youngest son doing something that seemed a little strange. He had a block of Post-It notes and was putting numbers on his school artwork. It turns out that those numbers were prices that he was hoping to sell his artwork for.
Why was he wanting to sell his artwork? We had a short family conversation about our finances not too long ago. The pinnacle of that conversation was that we were not going to be able to send the boys back to the school they’ve been growing up in. Isaiah was hoping that he could raise enough money to pay for his own schooling. It breaks my heart that we cannot afford their school, but telling him that his creative idea to raise the money himself would not be enough was even more painful.
The conversation I had with Isaiah that night led to a more heated conversation with my wife, Elise. I unintentionally accused her of giving Isaiah false hope, and that triggered an argument and the shedding of tears from the both of us.
As our conversation cooled down, I sank into a darkroom in my mind. Maybe it was because I was already weak from being sick, but I was losing my identity and the understanding of whose I am that I had just preached about hours before. I felt like a failure because I can’t afford a home, let alone send my kids back to their private school. On top of that, my kids don’t talk to me like they talk to Elise. That feeling of failure was amplified by the comparison game, and I continued down into an even darker place in my mind.
I don’t share these things for sympathy or to receive answers that I already know. The fact is, pastors are often seen in a different light. We are real people, with real issues. I’ve heard so many stories of arguments and spiritual attacks that come in the days leading up to preaching. This time, the attacks happened to me after I preached.
Pastors experience real life, just like the people they speak to and the people who have never set foot in a church. We are not exempt from the sufferings of this world. I’m sure some people think that it’s easy for a pastor to say something from the platform because they don’t know what those people are going through. It’s not easy, because we are real people who experience real life just like everyone else. Sometimes we also need to be reminded about the hope that is still to come.
I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us.Romans 8:18 (TPT)
I’ve opened my personal journal today to you for two reasons.
I want you to know that you are not alone in your suffering or struggles.
The words you hear from pastors do not come from a place of empty ideas, but from experience and real life. They are not meant to make you feel judged or ashamed, but to fill you with hope, peace, and freedom. You are not alone, and you don’t have to face the world on your own.
Pray for your pastors.
Spiritual warfare is real. There is a battle going on all around us that so many people are unaware of. Pastors, worship leaders, small group leaders, and so many other servants are on the front lines of this battle. Join them in the spiritual battle by praying for strength and perseverance. Pray for them. They face suffering and struggles as they pressing forward to speak hope, love, and truth into the world.