By Barbara Westberg
When my husband announced his call to preach, we climbed into the front row seat of ministry. It looked like the land of milk and honey. We were going to bring down the walls and conquer the enemy. “Look out, devil. The Westbergs are coming out to save the world.”
Then we reached the peak of the first incline, and the bottom fell out of our world. All I could do was grab the safety bar and say, “Oh, God, please get me through this! Please, help me.”
Life in ministry is an emotional roller-coaster ride – emotionally, not spiritually. Spiritually we walk by faith. Our faith is built on the Word of God. It’s solid, no ups and downs. Second Timothy 1:12 says, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” That day when the bottom falls out of my world, I know that God will keep what I have committed unto Him. So, spiritually, I’m on solid ground.
But emotionally, the roller-coaster goes round and round, up and down. In ministry we weep with those who weep. We rejoice with those who rejoice. We go from a funeral to a party, from a hospital room to a wedding, from life to death. It’s up and down.
Have you ever pushed yourself physically until you fell asleep on your feet? It didn’t matter where you were or what was happening, you went to sleep. As in the physical, so in the spiritual. Our emotions can only be pushed so far. So to prevent an emotional breakdown, our emotions shut down. It’s a built-in safety device.
Job’s wife was there. She had lost her children, all ten of them, in one day. Imagine her pain. Her husband had declared bankruptcy, and he was sitting in a pile of ashes, moaning and groaning. She did what most of us would have done. She lost it. “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” she said
Apparently, God forgave her for pouring out her grief in foolish words. When God reversed Job’s circumstances and doubled his riches and family, He didn’t tell Job, “Get another wife. This one can’t be trusted.” It’s amazing how God understands women.
We are emotional beings, because our Creator is emotional. He understands our emotions better than we do. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
On one of those at-the-bottom days, I prayed, “‘Jesus, You have felt everything that we feel, haven’t You?’ As the tears flowed, I continued, ‘I know You have felt rejection and weariness and weakness. But did You ever feel like a failure?’”
Gently, He reminded me of the day when many of His disciples “turned back and no longer followed Him” (Jn. 6:66). Did Jesus feel like a failure that day?
When we are at our lowest point on the roller-coaster with our hearts bleeding, the enemy shouts, “Jump! Jump Off! You don’t belong in the ministry. You’re a failure. Jump!”
In So You’re the Pastor’s Wife, author Ruth Senter talks about the guilt she carried every time someone left their church. “It’s my fault. If I had just invited them over for dinner one more time. I didn’t go see her when she was in the hospital the last time. I didn’t shake his hand Wednesday night.” Everything and everyone rested on her shoulders. It was an ego thing. Then one day she realized, “I am an influence, not a cause.”
So what do you do when your emotions shut down . . . when you can listen to a sermon about Calvary and not be moved? When you are dry and have the lid on so nothing can be poured into you? When you suffer from emotional exhaustion, what do you do?
- Relax. Quit trying to force your emotions to wake up. They need to rest. Your relationship with God is still intact.
- Keep doing what you have always done. Pray in the Spirit. Be faithful to the church. Keep walking forward, even when you feel like you’re sleepwalking.
- Refuse to take a guilt trip. Think of all the things you did right and then make a list. Go ahead. It’s okay to bless yourself. Why is it easier to list what we did wrong, than what we did right? Could it be that we are guilty of cursing ourselves, when we should be blessing ourselves?
One day, exhausted pastor’s wife, when you least expect it, your emotions will awaken and abundant life will again flow through you.
JUST BETWEEN US Presents...