Guest Writer: Mike Luis of Abundant Life Church
Recently, our youth ministry faced a challenging hardship that none of us ever wanted to walk through. One of our core young ladies took her life. I’ve been in ministry for a while, so this was not the first student death I’ve experienced, but that never makes it any easier.
Many of us have read the statistics of the next generation dealing with mental health. It’s mind-blowing. But that’s not what God’s been laying on my heart to share. Rather, I’ve been thinking about the issue of walking through pain. I look at our students and many of them are struggling with the why. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you know the pain they are carrying and what they’re trying to walk through. But I am also seeing the students and our leaders who are trying to do everything in themselves not to face the pain. They don’t want to process it, and they are doing everything in their human ability to avoid it.
I think this is something many of us do, both in ministry and personally. We try to be strong for our students, our spouses, our families, our lead pastors. We can put on this façade that no matter what difficulties come our way (a student leaving your youth ministry for another, going through a miscarriage, getting reprimanded/fired because of a dispute with your lead pastor, a parent blasting you on Facebook because you played a game where kids ate disgusting things, etc.), we feel real pain. And yet, we don’t like to handle it or we have difficulty handling it.
If I can encourage you today, no matter where you’ve been in ministry, how long you’ve served, whether you’re in the middle of a trial or prepping for when the next one comes, embrace the pain. To endure the pain is probably one of the main ways that God works His grace deeply in us. When we avoid pain, we will avoid the hardships and discomforts for a short period of time, but we will still have to face the consequences in the long term.
James 1 reminds us that we will face trials of many kinds, but we must count it as joy when we do. When we remain steadfast and endure the test, we receive eternal life with Him. Many of us have preached a sermon or two on James 1, but in order for us to be the best leaders for our students and our communities, we cannot overlook facing our own pain.
One of the best things I have ever done for myself, my relationship with my wife, my family, and the church was seeking to become emotionally healthy. Going through Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and seeing a counselor regularly helped me face deep pain I had locked away for many years. This pain was holding me back from being completely free to be used by the Holy Spirit (hear me, I’m not saying the Holy Spirit still didn’t use me despite my flaws). It wasn’t until I started to embrace the painful things that I was able to start seeing growth that I have not been able to experience yet as a leader.
Sam Chand says something that has always stood out to me: “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.” If I want to become a better leader, I have to raise the threshold of my pain. In the season I am in now, I am making the choice to embrace my pain. I am trying to do that for my team, our students, and the families in our community.
So what kind of trials are you up against right now? Are you acknowledging your own pain? Are you facing it head-on or are you avoiding it? One of the worst lies I told myself was that I couldn’t deal with my own pain because I needed to be strong for others. But over time I learned that not being vulnerable to my own feelings and emotions was hindering me in how I could help others encounter God and encounter their difficulties.
Don’t let the enemy win by allowing the pain to stop you in your tracks. Allow that pain to draw you closer to a deeper relationship with God and His purpose for your life. Embrace the pain to allow you to be vulnerable with those you minister to. Never allow yourself to become numb or desensitized to the hardships and trials in life. John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV).
No matter what you’re facing today, know that you have a family of believers who believe in you and stand with you. You are not alone. And you have an all-knowing and all-powerful God who has set you apart and has given you a part in His perfect and pleasing will. Embrace the pain.
- Reflect on your life and your ministry. Are there areas where you need to embrace the pain and be vulnerable with others?
- Don’t do life and ministry alone! And don’t be afraid to reach out to other pastors and leaders to give you counsel as you walk through life.
- The Feed Team would love to connect with you as you seek to lead others! Reach out to us at [email protected] to find out how we can partner with and support you in your ministry