For me, this question and related comments come every winter, and sound something like….
“Why do I live here? It’s -12°F outside. I’m freezing to death. Why don’t we just pick up and move!”
When times get hard or we feel out of our comfort zone, it’s easy to question why we put ourselves in the situation in the first place. That is true of ministry, too. Through my 28 years of working in children’s ministry, I have found that I often experience the mid-year “blues” during the month of January. Maybe it’s the coldness outside in Minnesota, or the post-Christmas exhaustion, or the children coming down with “post-sugar and gift feast syndrome,” but preparing for and going into the Sunday school classroom can cause me to say,
“Why did I sign up to teach this year? What was I thinking? I don’t feel like I have anything left to give to these children. I feel so discouraged.”
What’s the cure? Is it simply to pick up and move—quit teaching and find something more “comfortable” to do? Well, I haven’t moved from the freezing inconvenience of Minnesota yet, and there are many good reasons for that, reasons that become very evident when I stop and take the time to remember what God has graciously given me and sovereignly called me to. So, if you find yourself facing the mid-year ministry blues, I would encourage you to read or watch the sermon, “Spiritual Depression in the Psalms: Thinking and Feeling with God, Part 2,” by John Piper. Here is an excerpt that I found especially helpful,
We must learn to preach the truth to ourselves. Listen to [Martyn] Lloyd-Jones take hold of this verse[Psalm 42:5]:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says,: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” (Spiritual Depression, 20-21)
On this side of the cross, we know the greatest ground for our hope: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and triumphant over death. So the main thing we must learn is to preach the gospel to ourselves:
Listen, self: If God is for you, who can be against you? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will he not also with him graciously give you all things? Who shall bring any charge against you as God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for you. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31–35 paraphrased)
(By John Piper, ©2013 Desiring God Foundation, website: desiringGod.org)
(Image courtesy of Suat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Important Note: For 2014, we plan to update this blog Monday through Thursday. Please stop by and join us again on Monday, January 13.