Ministry, like South African diamonds, has many wonderful and unique facets to it. When an experienced jeweler holds a diamond up to the light and examines its core with a magnifying eyepiece, hard cold reality is unabridged. He or she sees the diamond for what it is. What may have seemed beautiful at a distance is sometimes not so pretty up close and personal.
In nearly 23 years of ministry, I have seen ministry from both perspectives. Volumes can be written about the glamor of some aspects of ministry… and rightly so. However, novelty wears away when one involves them-self deep into the service of the Lord Jesus Christ! Well meaning authors try to share in a few paragraphs or pages what took a lifetime for God’s servants to accomplish in ministry. Often, too much is said about so-called accomplishments, and too little is said about the staleness and loneliness that accompanies devoted service in the Lord’s work. We may do ourselves a grave injustice by promoting such picturesque snapshots of ministry.
Don’t misunderstand, ministry is absolutely rewarding in every facet! Nothing takes the place of going to sleep at night reminiscing of the opportunities God gave you that day. Even in the darkest of circumstances, ministry is fruitful! This precept must not be overlooked! The Law of the Harvest is immutable!
(Galatians 6:9) “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (KJV)
While there are many awesome parts of ministry which I would like to comment on, there is an often overlooked and misunderstood side of ministry that needs to be pondered. Of course, this intentionally bypassed aspect of ministry of which I write is that of loneliness. It can KILL you!
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness is mostly a feeling that finds its way into our hearts like rising water creeping into the basement of a home along a flood prone area. As a servant of the Lord, you cannot always choose the best scenario in which to engage yourself. With that comes the possibility for the dampness of loneliness to seep into your soul. You basically feel that you are ALONE and nobody else is with you. In spite of the fact that a pastor can have a church full of people supporting him, he can FEEL alone.
Loneliness: A Double Agent!
Loneliness is a double agent of sorts. Used by both God and Satan, it will make its debut sooner or later in EVERY ministry and in EVERY minister’s life! Satan will certainly try and use this “negative” aspect of ministry to discourage and defeat the sincerest of God’s laborers. On the other hand, our Heavenly Father will use this same difficulty as an opportunity to refine His dedicated and devoted servants.
There Is Help?
Throughout the Scriptures a minister will find help, comfort, encouragement and renewed vigor in coping with loneliness in ministry! From Moses, to John on the isle of Patmos, and everywhere in between, you can learn how to continue to serve in the midst of loneliness. Whether the servant of the Lord is a missionary, evangelist, pastor/teacher, Sunday school teacher, Deacon, or just a devoted member of a local assembly trying to be faithful to share the gospel and live a clean life… loneliness can be overcome!
Consider the description of John the Baptist from the gospel accounts. He was a “voice” not “voices”, and he lived alone in desolation. Jesus was tempted in a desert… alone and away from family and friends. Over and over again, you find our Lord getting by Himself in a solitary place. In both John the Baptist’s life as well as that of Jesus Christ, it can be clearly understood that loneliness accompanies ministry. The absence of people, is both needful and necessary at times.
(Psalms 91:1) “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (KJV)
Whether loneliness is a result of demanding ministry or simply a result of the physical absence of people, there is one common denominator… our fellowship with the Holy Spirit of God! Loneliness will dim of the most zealous firebrand of God. If we do not resort to the promises of God, and the shelter of the prayer closet, then we will not know what it means to “abide under that shadow of the Almighty” amidst the trying North winds of loneliness!
Much more can be stated about loneliness, but it suffices to point out that if one is serving in the midst of loneliness, then he or she is NOT ALONE! The lonely individual is NOT the only person who has faced or is facing loneliness. You can be the only person in the room and the room can get crowded! One must allow God to refine them of the dross that can only be burnt off in the crucible of loneliness. God will NEVER leave us nor will He forsake us!
(Hebrews 13:5) “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (KJV)