My Hardest Days As A Pastor

Being a pastor is hard. This is not a complaint; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the reality.

Most people don’t know what makes being a pastor hard. Yesterday someone talked about preaching being hard. While preaching takes extensive preparation over a lifetime, that is generally not what a pastor would describe as hard or onerous work. In fact, most of the pastoral work we do is exactly what we signed up for. For example, I knew from the time of my call that I would preach, witness, counsel, encourage, study, lead, and perform many other tasks that belong to a pastor.

Sometime in the future I hope to write about the exasperating part of ministry. For me, it is those people who expect perfection of everyone except themselves or those who live angry lives and take it out on the easiest mark around–which usually is the pastor.

But today I want to talk about what I didn’t sign up for and had no idea that I would be thrown into. This is what I call a pastor’s hardest days.

For me, the hardest days relate to the death of a child. Of all the things I see, this is the most difficult grief I deal with. There is simply no adequate way to describe all that parents experience when they lose a child.

What has happened in Newtown, Connecticut, is absolutely terrible times 20.

How do you help people who experience such pain?

First, you spend time with the parents and siblings, grandparents, and other friends and family. The most healing thing you can do is simply to show up. The parents of these children need people who care and who won’t forget. Saturday, I heard the father of Rachel Scott (killed at Columbine) interviewed about what he would say to these parents. He gave an amazing answer. He said that the people who can help them most are family, friends, and church. They don’t need experts; they need friends.

Second, you deal with them truthfully. Most of us don’t have many answers right now. We will have to say “I don’t know” many times. Grieving people don’t expect all the answers. They do appreciate support. Many times, your most helpful act will be to sit quietly.

Third, I try to help people know the God who cares and who will never forsake them. Jesus asked Simon and the disciples if they too would leave Him. Peter answered: “To whom else can we go? You have the words of life.” People who are experiencing unimaginable grief need the words of life. As we pray and share their hurts, we help them heal.

There is no formula for helping parents who lose children. As we pray and seek God’s guidance, we will begin to know how to help our friends with their unspeakable grief. If you would like to read related articles, please click here read about what we can do right now. Click here to read what I wrote about the shooting earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado.

Nothing burdens me like parents who lose children.

Let us pray for these parents and their community. They have difficult days ahead of them.

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5 Responses

  1. There are times when one is caught like a bird in flight. There are times when the writing is on the wall. There is the wonderment of community. There is the wonderment of isolation in the midst of plenty.

    Your thoughts are well taken about how hard it is to deal with the death of a child or children. It is also hard to deal with the death of Moms who stepped into the path of certain death to protect those in their charge.

    I think about the children and husbands of those Moms; and making sense of their willing sacrifice. To put the needs of others first in the face of harm to oneself is my definition of courage. My father modeled it for me. In turn I have numerous times in the past; and hope I find the intestinal fortitude to continue. The experiences I have shared have been to remind you of your very salient point, it takes a body, a community, friends. The comfort of strangers has its place. I refer again to Romans 12 direction to members of the Body: Rejoice with those who do rejoice and weep with those who weep. In the awareness of shared joy and harm (grief) there is a facet in the unspeakable Joy revealed. The Hebrew mind is a wonderment of comparisons.

    As I was told before, “Your problem is that you actually believe that stuff in the Bible.” Yes, that is still my problem. Sadly those words and many like them have come from leaders in what we call “church.” We have an all powerful God who generally lets the laws of our nature dictate circumstance. Just as we from a medical perspective recognize increasingly the results of free radicals in our bodies attacking hard working cells, who are just doing their jobs. We are what we eat. We are what we do. We become known by the dog we feed (to borrow from an old Indian saying). Life, however, is not static. Having been on both sides of the community wall has given me the perspective I have shared. I have watched colleagues become unraveled, men of God, of the Book. Men who had been recognized and loved. You have too. I have worked both as an employer and volunteer worker with men who are desperately wanting to improve themselves, to put their faith and trust in a God who Loves them and wants the best for them. It has taken being on the bedside of those I have loved and died to bring my attention to the fact: God does not often intervene. His ways are higher than our ways in this manner too. Our Lord, the King of kings and Lord of lords did not intervene with his cousin dying for proclaiming Truth; and neither did His Father from Heaven. I have sought, asked, knocked on “Christian” doors for help. For a price some offered, but that time has passed. Morning by morning new Mercies I see. Yet, as I look around there are many points of light surrounded in darkness and it is sad. I am thankful for the few I see surrounding you.

    The paradigm of Kingdom Life is Interesting.


  2. Something just emailed to me you might find interesting:

    After shooting, Del. congregations hear call for kindness

    In the Christian tradition, the third Sunday of Advent is known as Joyful Sunday, but on this Sunday it was hard for many Delaware clergy to find joy after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. This tragedy reminds us in a very real way that the joy of Advent and Christmas isnt a joy that comes from what the world has to offer, Carolyn Gillette told her congregation at Limestone Presbyterian Church on Sunday. Its the joy that comes from God breaking through from God entering into our sinful world.


  3. Waylon, you are right when you say that just being their with the parents when a child dies is so important.
    Our oldes child passed away four years ago and Waylon and the other pastors of FBC Covington; along with some of our Bible Study members were with us for prayer and support the day she passed. They paryed with us and cried with over our loss. I don’t know how we could have gotten through this with out those pastors and friend deing with us.
    Our family was Blessed to have such caring and loving people with us that day and the days, weeks and months that followed.
    Marvin & Mary Lynne Thames

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