If there’s anything I hear from pastors these days, it’s weariness. Many church leaders admit they are experiencing exhaustion and exasperation due to the challenge of living and leading through a time of such distress.
Scholars will study this era for decades to come, reckoning with the sociological and psychological impact of the pandemic. For some churches, the fallout was minimal and contained, as the lockdowns were brief, and life returned to a semi-normal state months ago. For other churches, especially in cities where the restrictions have been tighter, the pandemic feels interminable, and every time you look ahead to temporal markers of victory, you encounter a mirage.
A pastor told me last week that he’s encouraged by the vaccination rates and the falling number of Covid cases and Covid-related deaths in his area. But even that sense of joy is mixed with sorrow over the loss we’ve experienced—loss of life, loss of opportunities, loss of connection. I suspect many who are happy to be emerging from this strange and persistent “Covid year” feel a lot like a pastor surveying the church building after a fire, or examining the damage to a neighborhood after a flood or tornado has come through. The storm is over, but the wreckage remains.
If you feel tired and disoriented today, please know you’re not alone. And know that this feeling won’t last forever. The next season of ministry will bring a new set of opportunities and challenges, but (thankfully) they won’t be the same ones you’ve faced in the past year. Before this weariness passes, I recommend you lean into the moment and take stock of your life and ministry in two ways.
Reexamine your temptations and struggles this past year.
First, look over the past year and take stock of the trials you’ve experienced. What struggles have you dealt with? What temptations have you encountered?
A few church leaders have told me that the Covid year surprised them, not only because of what was going on externally but also because of the internal distress they experienced. They felt like in 2018 and 2019 they’d reached a level of spiritual and pastoral maturity and had achieved a certain measure of victory over particular sins and struggles that had plagued them in the past, only to discover in 2020 that some of those feelings of inadequacy, temptations to pride and self-sufficiency, and flirtations with old lusts and vices returned with a vengeance. Old sins that had lost their luster suddenly shined. Old struggles that had been overcome rose again.
Looking back at the past year and assessing the sins you fought and the struggles you felt will go a long way in opening a window into your heart. In good times, it’s easy to assume we’ve achieved a new level of spiritual progress in our leadership or in our ability to resist certain temptations. We become confident and comfortable in ministry.
That’s why there’s an unexpected blessing in the season that strips away our self-sufficiency. You suddenly see what you’ve been relying on. You see where your hope was placed. You realize how easy it is for old habits to creep back into your life. Rather than be discouraged, let this revelation thrust you back on the Spirit for power and provision.
Revisit your calling.
Secondly, take the time to revisit your calling. Perhaps you’ve heard stories or seen statistics about pastors dropping out of ministry. That’s not surprising when we consider how tough it’s been to shepherd polarized congregations through a season of profound isolation and anxiety.
For those who feel weary and yet remain committed to the ministry, don’t miss the chance to revisit your calling. What is God’s call on your life? What are the most essential aspects of that calling? Trials give us the chance to go back to the basics of what we believe and why, and to return to the essential elements of discipleship and evangelism.
It’s easy to grow discouraged when people wander away, whether into other churches or away from the faith altogether. Remember, though, that your call does not depend ultimately upon your circumstances. Yes, your ministry takes shape depending on the context and your circumstances, but the divine calling supersedes the current moment.
The more you zero in on the one or two things you know in your heart of hearts God has called you to do, the better you will be able to figure out how best to express that calling during this season. Your calling can endure this calamity. Trust that your obedience to God’s call on your life will bear fruit, no matter how dry the season.
Don’t Waste This Weariness
In the end, don’t let this moment pass without taking note of the temptations and struggles you’ve experienced this year. Self-reflection and self-assessment will help you in the future as you consider the ways you need to grow. And make sure to revisit your calling so that you find clarity on the essential points of what God has called you to do.
Don’t waste this weariness. Let’s take care not to rush so quickly toward an “old normal” that we miss the ways in which God may be using this season to reform and reshape our life and ministry for the days ahead.
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