I think the majority of people will agree that they like to care for and look after other people. We like to spend time with others, make sure that they are as okey as they can be and that they feel loved.
The same is true in pastoral ministry, and every other kind of ministry. But one of the things I’ve seen over the years, and I see in my own heart, is that people tend to care for others at the neglect of themselves.
It’s so easy to fill our days with meeting people and doing good and necessary pastoral care. We enjoy being an open ear to the flock and caring for their souls. We invest time in studying and preaching to care for the flock we’re teaching. We spend emotional and spiritual energy investing in them. We spend time with them, both actual time together and thinking/worrying time as we mull over our past or upcoming meeting.
Now these are all good and right things to do. However, this should not be done at the neglect of being cared for ourselves. I find myself giving the staple answer of “I’m fine” when asked how I’m doing. Am I really though? Or is that just because I don’t want to bother people with my problems?
Pastors, and others involved in ministry, don’t want to be put on a pedestal and yet we put ourselves on one by creating a false image of okayness (I know that’s not a word).
We need to open up (to the right people) and be honest about our fears, worries and struggles. We need to be vulnerable and accept the truth that we all know, that we are broken sinful people who need the Lord to work in us. We need to be humble enough to accept help from others, not only to give it ourselves.
What’s the problem with only giving and not being willing to accept care from others?
1. It’s proud. It gives the idea that we have everything sorted and nothing is ever wrong in our lives and hearts.
2. It’s a lie. Not being vulnerable and accepting care from others shows that people might think that they are above others.
3. It robs others of their service. The Lord has equipped the church for service, He has put the people under your care who fill your pews every Sunday. Projecting a false sense of okayness and happiness just means that those who want to help you can’t because you won’t let them.
One of the hymns we use to sing in church a few years back has always stuck with me
“Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.”
Fellow brothers and sisters in ministry, in whatever forms that may take, do not suffer alone. Do not be proud. Do not shun the care of those who love you and want to help you. Instead be humble, confess your need to be cared for and be vulnerable. Accept the care of those who want to help you.
Being cared for is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you are a fallen, sinful human being who needs the body of a Christ to come alongside you and help you serve. That is a good place to be.
By caring for yourself, by allowing others to care for you, you will actuality be caring for others better because you will be able to continue to serve them in ministry for longer.
I write this not as someone who has arrived and got all of this nailed. But I write as someone who knows my own sinful heart and the pride that lurks within. I hope that I will be able to serve you and have the grace to let you serve and care for me too.