I am one of those people who knows very little about sports. But, my three sons and husband play and enjoy various sports, so in an effort to strive for family unity, I try to be a good fan. For a non-sports person, that is not as easy as it may seem. For years, when I would watch my boys play, I would often cheer at the wrong times. My embarrassed husband would whisper to me, “Don’t cheer right now. Something bad just happened.”
When my sons played basketball, it was especially difficult to know when and how to cheer. I knew to say, “Yea!” when their team made a basket, but how was I supposed to cheer when they were playing defense? In an echoing gymnasium, everyone could hear when I accidentally cheered when we turned over the ball or committed a foul.
I finally learned to shout, “Rebound! Rebound!” when the other team shot a basket, or when our team missed a shot. It was an easy encouragement I could yell to my son and the rest of the team. I loved it when my boys grabbed the missed ball that usually ricocheted off the hard backboard, and then helped the team take the ball to the other end or took the rebounded ball back up for a shot.
Sometimes my boys wouldn’t go for the rebound. They’d automatically assume the other team would make the shot, or that another player would beat them to the rebound. Sometimes they were just tired from running up and down the court and didn’t feel like going for the rebound. I remember being so proud when they were physically spent, but still pushed themselves to get the rebound, or when they battled other players to get it.
As I think about rebounding from wounds caused by ministry hurts, I am reminded of those old days in the elementary and middle school gyms cheering for my boys. Some of our experiences in ministry can be like a basketball hitting a hard backboard – a goal isn’t scored and we feel like we’ve been smacked in the face. Sometimes we are like a deflated ball. We hit the backboard, but fall flat to the ground and don’t bounce back. Sometimes we are the tired player, so spent from our efforts that we don’t feel like even trying for the rebound anymore.
For me, ministry hurts have come in many different forms. There have been numerous times when I didn’t rebound from that hurt. I fell flat like that deflated basketball. There have been times I was that tired player. But, over the years, I have learned four lessons about ministry wounds and how to come back from them.
1. Accept that Ministry Hurt is Unavoidable
If you’re doing ministry right, you are pouring your heart and soul into other people. You are being real and vulnerable. You are forging deep connections. You are allowing people to see the real you so that you can effectively lead them to the One who saves us all.
But, there’s a downside to all of that realness and vulnerability, and it’s this – you WILL get hurt. Don’t bother attempting to navigate around this. Don’t even try to argue that you are different, that you are a special case, that you’re too tough to get hurt, or that you have safeguarded your heart enough to protect yourself from ministry hurts. Instead of denying it, accept in advance that it is going to happen, and prepare what your response to that hurt will be.
2. Focus on What You Are Supposed to Do
Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” (NIV)
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was after someone left our ministry without a backward glance and left me feeling wounded. I was told to keep focusing on what I was supposed to do and to leave the rest up to God, that there would be times when I would sow into one person, but then reap a harvest from another person I had never sown into. That was very freeing advice for me.
3. Work as Unto the Lord
Sometimes ministry comes with negative people. Those negative people can be people we are ministering to, or people we work alongside, or even people we work for. Sometimes other people get the credit for a job well done, and sometimes we can get the blame for something that isn’t our fault.
A key to rebounding from ministry hurt is found in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving.” (NIV) When we remember that we are working for the Lord, we can joyfully continue working for Him, even after someone else receives the credit, after we are wrongly blamed, after we are slandered, maligned, our children are mistreated, and on and on. Ultimately, our service is unto the Lord, so HE is the one we are aiming to please!
4. Come Apart Before You Come Apart
Have you ever noticed how many times the gospels tell us that Jesus “withdrew” to pray? He often left everyone and went to a remote place to commune with His Father. He knew another secret to being able to continue ministering despite hurts that were hurled at Him. That secret was to Come Apart Before You Come Apart.
Daily time in a prayer closet, vacations, sweet family time, even alone time on the porch swing with a good book – I believe all of these are wonderful opportunities to come apart. If we don’t take time to get away and commune with the Lord and with our family, we will fall apart. Before you unravel from inevitable wounds, I urge you to make coming apart a priority in your life.
If we don’t take time to get away and commune with the Lord and with our family, we will fall apart.
The Goal: Bouncing Back
Jesus promised us that in the last days offenses will come. Life in the ministry is rife with opportunities to be offended. The goal is that after that ministry hurt we will bounce back, without bitterness. The truth is, the likelihood of being hurt in ministry is high, but we have a Savior who is a healer of broken hearts. If you have been hurt in ministry, I urge you to take those hurts to Him and allow Him to mend those wounds and breathe new life into you today.
Too Tired to Rebound is Entry THREE in Sanctuary's September series, On the Rebound || Rebounding From Hurt in the Ministry. Join us weekly as we share insight from guest bloggers who have sustained the injury and rebounded from hurt toward healing and hope. Share your thoughts below with us in the comments. What are your takeaways from Martha's post?
Martha and her husband, Kevin Fouts, serve as lead pastors of Discovery Church in Yukon, OK. Kevin and Martha have been partners in life and in ministry for twenty-four years. A recovering control freak and ultra-planner, Martha firmly believes that the plans the Lord has prepared for us are far greater than anything we could ever plan for ourselves. He has a grand destiny prepared for each and every one of us, and it is her desire to help people Discover Their Destinies in Christ. Martha is also a mother of three teenage sons and a high school English teacher. In her free time, she enjoys escaping into the pages of a good book. Martha’s newest book, Dear Drama, Let’s Break Up helps readers overcome drama and discovery the peaceful, abundant life the Lord has prepared for them.