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A Lament for the Hard Things…


This painting hangs in my study reminding me of days like today. Like the man in the painting, pastoral ministry calls men to come in humility, bearing the cross; the hope of the Lord Jesus. It's called, "St. Philip the Apostle."

A Day in the Life of a Pastor-Shepherd...

Pastor-Shepherds occupy a unique position in that they get to share in the various life situations of so many people. As Pastors go about their task of overseeing the lives of their people, they inevitably enter into those situations to share the joys, bear the burdens, and grieve the heartaches of so many. Oftentimes, these things happen all in the same day. As I said…it's a unique position to be in.


Let me share a little about my day today — Tuesday, April 11, 2023:

  • My day began with breakfast with a couple from Church to discuss the baptism of their son. A serious, yet joyful discussion about the Lord’s work in their family.

  • That was followed by a sobering text from a friend asking for prayer for a loved one in a difficult situation.

  • That text arrived at about the same time as another text from a friend needing prayer and encouragement because life is hard, and this season of frustration won’t seem to let up.

  • As I pulled into the Church parking lot, I greeted one of our senior saints who walks at the Church in the mornings. She buried her son just last week. We hugged. It's been hard on her.

  • After I made it into my office, I talked with yet another Church-member who is struggling with work. Business is hard, good help is hard to find, and things break…and break…and break. Frustrated and overwhelmed.

  • At this point, the Lord reminded me of a brief conversation I had with a Church member on Easter Sunday morning, so I reached out to follow up. A long message of heartache came back regarding a family member who is in a difficult situation and might be on the brink of deeper hardship.

  • After that, I sent an email to a family who has decided to move their Church membership elsewhere.


And then, 9 Am rolled around. — After some study and prayer, I went to the gym.

  • At 1:30, a local friend updated me on a struggling Church. Much to pray about.

  • As I was warming up my lunch, I noticed a family in the cemetery arranging flowers on the grave of their recently deceased mother/grandmother. I had helped with the funeral.

  • At 3pm, a Church member passed along the good news that one of our senior saints is recovering well from her cancer treatments. Praise God!

  • And around 4pm, a text came in from my Bride informing me that our children had been difficult today, and that she was exhausted and ready for a break.

  • At 4:45pm, my wife took a walk with a friend to decompress while I took the kids on an errand. I tried to calmly talk to them about their defiance and disobedience. A failed effort.

  • As I cooked dinner, I missed a phone call from a friend who needed encouragement.

  • And now, as I write this, I am getting ready for an early morning Bible study with men who are eager to learn the things of God and follow Jesus more faithfully.


What a day!


So much happening in so many peoples’ lives. So many hard things that I’ve shared in today. So much to lament. So much to pray for. And yet, this is just a normal day in the life of a Pastor-Shepherd.



Processing…

As the day comes to a close, it seems good and right for me to process the day by writing and reflecting. I was stuck by just how much is going on in the lives of my people. And, this level of activity is always going on. Even when details aren't coming at me, I am still aware of things happening in the congregation: Right now, there are people awaiting surgery, struggling with bills, recovering from surgery, struggling in their marriage, dealing with substance abuse, fighting sin, dealing with long-term health situations, drowning in work stress, dealing with depression, and some dying in unbelief.


It is, in all honesty, too much for any man to bear. It is too much for me to bear. Which is why, I think, that the Apostle Peter calls King Jesus the Senior Pastor of the Church (1 Pt. 5). Jesus is the only Senior-Pastor; the only One worthy of the title. Jesus is our Chief Shepherd.

  • That’s why, to a concerned mother, I wrote, “I have no words except the Words of our Lord…” and then sent her some comforting promises from the Psalms…


Pastors aren’t magicians. They are bearers of Jesus’ living Word.


Here is the reality, and I said this in my sermon on Easter Sunday morning: Life is hard; bad things happen; good things fade; satisfaction is brief. The best of earthly treasures come quickly to an end.

  • I said it Sunday, and experienced it today.

I was saying this in regard to Jesus’ teaching in John 6. He had just fed the crowds with bread in the wilderness, and instead of understanding the sign as revealing Jesus as the Savior, all the people want is more bread for their bellies; all they want is immediate satisfaction. But Jesus, the ever-faithful Savior-Teacher, rebukes and reminds these people that life is hard, and earthly satisfaction fades.

  • What we need is not temporary earthly happiness, we need soul-steadying eternal joy. Happiness fades quickly on days like today.

  • We need the Lord to fill our hearts and souls with the Bread of life that endures to eternal life.


The belly only stays full for so long — so, Jesus says, “Work for the food that endures to Eternal Life!


That’s my hope on a day like today. I can’t really help people on my own. As a Pastor-Shepherd, I can’t really do all that much by myself. My greatest skill and tool in the moments of suffering and crisis is to show up with the hope of Jesus Christ—the Bread of life Who sustains the soul—and the eternal hope He grants to us through faith.

  • To the family thinking about baptism, we prayed and shared joy.

  • To my struggling friends, I lamented the difficulties with them and reminded them of Jesus.

  • To the woman who buried her son, we hugged.

  • To the Church member worried about her family member, we shared Scripture and prayer.

  • To my wife, I gave her some space and now we’re enjoying each other’s company.

  • To the woman who is recovering from cancer, we gave thanks.

  • To the men preparing for tomorrow’s study, I am preparing as well.


And, by God’s grace alone, we will keep at it, and He’ll keep being faithful. We're it not for the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ, none of us would make it. But, thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is redeeming the world, He's redeeming the hurting, the broken, the worried, and the beaten down.


He is redeeming the world; so, I'll get up and go again tomorrow.


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