I want to share a blog from a pastor’s wife that I believe everyone reading it can relate.
If you’re in a church you don’t love, hang in there. Pray like crazy, then pray some more. Ask God to change your heart. Ask God to give you eyes to see what HE sees.
Years ago, at our second church, I was miserable. I felt like I had been picked up and moved to a foreign country against my will. I remember going to a Convention early in our ministry at this location and hearing a sermon. I don’t remember the speaker’s name. I don’t remember anything else he said that day, but I do remember this: He was in a church where he was miserable. He tried everything. The people, apparently, were awful and would not follow his leadership. He prayed, “Oh God, give me a people I can love.” He said he heard the Lord reply as clearly as if He were sitting in the chair next to him: “I cannot give you a people to love until you love the people I have given you.”
I clung to that for the next year, praying every day, “Lord, help me to love the people you have given to us.” It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t instant. We still had troubles, but slowly things began to change…inside of me. I had compassion on people that before I found myself judging. I had sorrow for losses, joy for accomplishment and gain. Things were still hard and in all truthfulness, things would get harder before our journey there was over… but I was the one who was different.
The Lord moved us from there to a much better situation where we were blessed to serve for 17 years. It was easy to love the people of this particular church and I promptly forgot the lesson I had learned.
Five years ago we moved to our current location and once again I found myself being miserable. Lots of grief surrounded our move with an empty nest and the death of a longtime pet. I grieved the loss of our former church, our status in the community and the friendships we shared. Starting over in a new town after 17 years was harder than my husband or I ever thought and we struggled on a personal level as well as a ministry level.
Just before the first of the year, I wrote in my journal with timid hopefulness that I thought I had turned a corner. Some from our former church, once again without a pastor, had mentioned to my husband the possibility of returning. I didn’t have the reaction I thought I would. I immediately thought of the children I work with here and how sorrowful I would be to leave them. I thought of the unfinished work. And then, this morning, I thought of the words of the man at the convention: “I cannot give you a people to love until you love the people I have given you” and I realized that what had changed was my heart and my attitude. We still have some hard issues here at this church. We have complacency. We are a dying church in a lot of ways with an older population and in the future we will face financial hardship because we do not have a strong current of younger families to take the place of current (older) leadership. We have leadership vacuums and we have lots of “structural” work to do.
I can’t adequately explain why I am even writing this. I felt like there was someone out there who, like me, has felt that there is just no hope. I want to tell you, sister there IS always hope. Sometimes, though, we find HOPE when we let go of our agenda, our expectations and our own thoughts. Sometimes we find hope when we step back and realize that God had a plan all along and we couldn’t see it and we didn’t trust Him to execute the plan on our behalf.
I didn’t see it. At times I refused to see it. I have caused myself countless hours of grief and crying and arguing with my husband because “I” couldn’t see it.
I close this very long post with these words from a song by Babbie Mason: God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So, when you don’t understand, when you don’t see his plan, when you can’t trace his hand…trust his heart.
Trust His Heart, friend, and ask Him to help you love the people He has given into your care. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Know that He sees you. He knows exactly where you are. He loves you.
I love the statement Patty clung to through the years. I pray we will all cling to that as well, “I cannot give you a people to love until you love the people I have given you.” Ministry is hard and lonely, but all God asks of us is to be faithful. We are here to walk with you on the ministry journey. Please let us know how we can help you.