I almost didn’t post this article. It’s one of the most raw and honest blog posts I’ve ever written and I wasn’t sure if it gave too much of a window into where I’ve been spiritually and emotionally lately. However, it’s all true and authentic and if it helps just one despairing Christian, even one engaged in gospel ministry, then it would have been worth it…
2 weeks ago I faced what is undoubtedly one of the hardest moments I’ve ever had to face in my life.
It was a Wednesday evening and I had called an emergency church meeting.
I gathered myself, rose from my seat, walked to the front of the chapel, swallowed hard and turned around to address my Hill City family. Tears filled my eyes as I scanned the room. There in front of me were scores of faces. Some young, some old. Some of whom I’ve known for only a short time, many of whom I have had the privilege of journeying with for years. All of whom I loved deeply. I’m sure that some had clocked that something wasn’t quite right. Others I don’t think had a clue what was about to go down…
Guys….I’m really sorry….but I’m done….I can’t do this anymore….I can’t be your pastor anymore….I’m just done….I’m so sorry!!
There was stunned silence as I went on to explain that it had all just got too much for me. That I clearly wasn’t cut out for pastoral ministry, or any kind of ministry for that matter!
I explained that I was exhausted.
I was emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually shattered.
Quitting was the last thing I had wanted to do. It’s not something I’ve ever done before and certainly not how I had envisaged my church planting adventure to end. But here I was – a broken man, with no energy, no fight and, perhaps most worryingly of all – no faith!
The whole scene was pathetic…and thank God…no one actually heard or saw any of it because it had all happened in my head.
The resignation was real, but it never made it beyond my troubled, turbulent mind.
Truth is, if at that moment (3am on Thursday 2nd April) I had been put in front of my church family – all of the above would have happened. As it was, I was all alone with only my doubts, my tears and irrational fears for company. That was until my wife, Michelle, invaded the trauma I was experiencing and did more to arrest my slide into a personal abyss than she’ll ever truly know.
She didn’t chastise me. She didn’t tell me to pull myself together. She didn’t reassure me that it was all going to be OK. She just hugged me, listened to me as I poured out SO MUCH pain and confusion. And then spoke truth to me and prayed for me. One of the things that Michelle prayed was the key to my escape. She prayed something along the lines of:
Father, may the truths that Dai has been thinking through this week sink deep into his heart and transform him.
Literally, as she prayed that my mind went straight to one of the passages that I had been meditating on during the week as part of my prep for the Easter Sunday sermon. The passage was 1 Corinthians 15. However, by this point I was far too emotionally spent to study the Bible, so it had to wait til the following morning. And sure enough, the following morning God met with me in His Word and things started to change.
The first 57 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 are some of the most compelling words ever written about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They reach their crescendo in this way:
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those are wonderful words, but it was the following, final verse that the Holy Spirit was going to use to do His deep work within me:
THEREFORE, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I emboldened and underlined the word ‘therefore’ because it is so crucial in how God did His work in me. ‘Therefore’ is a link word that essentially says “Because of X then Y”. Or in this specific instance, “because Jesus is not dead but is alive we…I…can and SHOULD be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord!”
It was as if someone had turned on a light bulb that literally caused my heart to be flooded with light and hope. Jesus is alive – and He’s alive in me, which means that I am not condemned to having to fight…and to flounder…and to fail! Rather, in the power of the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave, my life and my ministry can and SHOULD be
Those are big, strong words that even the most broken and busted up can build their lives on. They are the words that God used to heal my wounded heart, to restore my hope, refresh my vision, to rebuild my shattered confidence and to remind me yet again of my own dire need for the grace of the gospel of Jesus!
Armed with these truths I was able to take time over the days that followed to trace back to the source of where the wheels had started to come off. There were lies I had believed. Truths I had failed to believe. Sins I needed to forgive. Sins I needed to confess. A family who needed to be led by a warrior, not a wimp. It was as I prayed alone in my car on Good Friday morning that the fog truly lifted. That spiritual vitality and clear vision returned.
And by God’s grace – they have remained!
As I write this it all seems like an age ago. But it wasn’t – it was just a fortnight ago! Just 2 weeks ago I quit! It may have been in my head, but it was very, VERY real. I thank God for my incredibly patient, faithful, gracious wife who shone grace in to my life in my darkest hour. I thank God for the friends and accountability partners who I have confided in since who have prayed, supported, encouraged and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me. But above all I thank the Father that my Redeemer lives! Jesus is ALIVE and this truth, more than anything else, changes everything.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.