Being a pastor isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It’s emotionally taxing. We’re just as subject to the pressure to hustle and grind as anyone in a professional role, and sometimes, the grind gets to us. You can only hustle so long until you’re out of energy.
I’ve found that when discouragement attacks, it usually attacks on Mondays, even after a great weekend of worship services and seeing lives changed.
James Draper once described the Southern Baptist Convention as “a denomination of discouraged leaders.” I think that’s true of most denominations and churches. I’ve heard from tens of thousands of leaders who have attended our Purpose Driven conferences and training events, and I’ve concluded that a majority of pastors struggle with chronic discouragement.
Thankfully, there is an antidote. The fourth chapter of Nehemiah gives us a four-point plan for bouncing back when we’re feeling down.
1. Rest Your Body
Nehemiah rested. The psalmist wrote about rest in Psalm 127:2, “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?” (The Message).
Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in a moment of exhaustion and discouragement is to go to sleep!
2. Reorganize Your Work
When the people of Israel became tired and discouraged under Nehemiah’s leadership, he reorganized them by families and gave them specific assignments. Some carried a sword and others carried a trowel.
Sometimes, when you’re discouraged, it’s not that you’re doing the wrong thing; you may be doing the right thing in the wrong way. You don’t need to quit the ministry. You just need to reorganize how you’re going about it and learn some new skills.
Try a fresh approach. Attack it from a different angle. Learn. Grow. Reorganize.
3. Remember the Lord
Discouragement is actually an attitude. Depression is sometimes the result of chemical issues in the brain, but discouragement is different because we can choose to be courageous in the face of life’s difficulties. We get discouraged when we choose to think discouraging thoughts.
The good news is, no one is forcing us to think those thoughts. You can choose to focus on something positive. And the best thing to put your mind to is your relationship with Jesus. When you focus on God’s character and nature, all of the things that might discourage you shrink in size.
4. Resist the Enemy
The great pastor R. G. Lee once said, “If you don’t get up in the morning and meet the Devil, you’re just headed the wrong way.”
We are in a spiritual battle, and the Devil doesn’t want the Kingdom of God to advance. As a pastor, you’re on the front line, so you’re going to get hit. The Devil will attack you with every kind of thing he can think of to discourage you. He is the accuser of the brethren, and he would love to neutralize you with discouragement.
James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil” (NIV).
Don’t give in without a fight! You can’t control the cantankerous or carnal people in your church. But you can choose how you respond to them. And you can choose whether you’re going to let it discourage you or not.
There’s an old phrase: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” It’s true. So don’t give up!
God is not finished with you! Rest your body. Reorganize your work. Remember the Lord. And resist the enemy. God bless!