Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Thankful, even for the challenges

Reading time: two minutes

You’re entering into one of the most challenging, busy seasons of ministry. I know your heartfelt thanks for all the blessings in your life: family, fitness, food, faith, friends. Can you be thankful in the midst of challenges and hardships, such as those the days ahead will surely bring?

How about one last visit to Thanksgiving?

Gratitude for God’s goodness is a strong indicator of wellbeing!

I’ll make a prediction: you’ll face a challenge in the next few months for which you are not prepared. You’ll experience a loss, a defeat, a sudden twist that you could not have seen coming. Something will happen that will make you say, “Now what?”

I once told a wedding couple to relax, because despite their extreme diligence in preparation, something would go wrong at their wedding. The bride asked me, “What?” I said, “I don’t know what. That’s the point. Deal with it when you get there.”

Ministry is hard. I remember Tom Hanks telling Geena Davis in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers” writes St. James, “whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2).

What you do is hard, but you’re not alone. I’ll be praying for God’s gifts of strength and wisdom as you face the challenges ahead.

Second prediction: you’ll also face some wonderful success in your service in God’s kingdom.

Like seeds scattered on good soil, God’s Word does it’s work in the lives of the people you serve, and in the days ahead you’ll have opportunity to be amazed at the wonders the Lord is working through you.

John Piper gave my favorite definition of joy. “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.” Witnessing Christ at work gives joy.

I’m reminded of the disciples who rejoiced at the submission of demons to the name of Jesus, and the Lord’s reminder, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

In your times of success, give thanks that God has invited you to witness His power and grace!

Prediction three: in the days ahead, you’ll face a time of discouragement.

The recent season of upheaval has seen church worker frustration and discouragement reach an all-time high. Those considering leaving ministry is at its highest level since church worker wellness was first studied a century ago.

Nearly all of us will endure a season of loneliness, of tiredness, or a season of simply being overwhelmed by the never-ending tasks of ministry.

It’s in those seasons that we rely on hope, the confidence we have that because Christ is risen, the feelings of discouragement and disappointment will ultimately give way to times of refreshment and joy.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Tough times come. Christ is already here, with you. Take time to remember, and to give thanks.

Thanks for reading.