Have you heard the old joke that ministry would be great if it weren’t for all the people? Be honest, have you ever thought this was true?
You don’t have to be in ministry for long to realize just how personal this life is. We work with people—sinful, fallen, imperfect people. We work with people who will sometimes hurt our feelings.
And we, in turn, will hurt theirs.
We live, work and play with the people in our churches. We pour into their lives, and they pour into ours. We are with them during their most vulnerable seasons, ones of birth, illness, victory and death.
People will hurt your feelings. When that happens, you have a choice. You can either take it personally and seek to inflict hurt in return, or you can choose to respond as God commands us in Ephesians. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Let's take a closer look at the three biblical responses found in Ephesians.
1. Be humble and gentle. Being humble means taking ourselves out of the spotlight. I love how the dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” Pride and arrogance only exist to enslave us to ourselves. Through pride and arrogance, we see all the ways we are overlooked and the ways our husbands or children have been hurt. Being humble is being free from self. In commanding us to approach others with humility and gentleness, God is freeing us to love them regardless of what they have done to us.
2. Be patient. We work with real people—people who are flawed and sinful but who are hopefully on their own journey to holiness. As we lead them, they will mess up; so will we. We need to be patient with one another, remembering that we are all tempted, that we all sin and that none of us will reach perfection until we see Jesus. We need to give ourselves patience and extend it to the people with whom we minister.
3. Bear with one another in love. Why did you feel called to ministry? I hope your answer includes a love for people and a desire to lead them to know and love Jesus. When ministry becomes difficult, we need to remind ourselves of why we began in the first place. We are commanded to “bear” with one another. The Lord knows it is going to be a struggle for us to love one another, but He will give us the grace to do so.
A few years ago, we transitioned from one ministry position to another. I had served in several areas in the church we were leaving, and I felt like God must be growing me for something similar (and if I am honest, bigger) in the new ministry. But those were not the plans God had for me. I felt overlooked and unwanted. No one seemed to see how I could contribute in our new ministry position, and I felt like I was wasting the abilities God had grown in me. My feelings were hurt, and there were times I took it out on those God had chosen to use in the areas I wanted (in my selfishness) to work.
As I looked back on that season of ministry, I saw God was taking away my plans and desires so He could give me His desires and grow me in new ways. Whatever hurt you are facing in your current ministry position, I want to encourage you that God is not going to waste this pain. He is going to grow you into a better servant and minister for the gospel, if you will yield to His teaching.
How we respond to those who hurt us matters. We are sharing the gospel through our actions by forgiving our offenders in humility and gentleness and by showing patience and love with those we serve. We don’t take things personally because we are super-Christians, but we do so through the enabling of the Holy Spirit because we desire to grow in godliness.
This blog post was written by Beth Holmes for Flourish - Ministry Wives on February 17, 2017. She is a minister's wife and mom living in Owensboro, Kentucky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014. After spending a year learning to be brave through cancer treatments, God is teaching her again how to celebrate in 2016. Join her journey at bethholmes.wordpress.comMore from this author.
1. How do you respond when you are hurt by someone in the church?
2. How is your response different if the hurt comes from someone outside the church, i.e. a family member, a friend?
3. What is your response when you are the one who causes the hurt?
4. What are some positive actions you can take when you are hurt?