Striking Rocks, pt.1: Hitting the Wall

This year marks 30 years of ministry for me.  It has not been an easy 3 decades. I’ve had some incredible highs and some equally incredible lows. For years I’ve worked in poor ministries or poor communities that has produced great financial strain, but has also cultivated in my wife and me a great faith in the Lord’s provision. It is a faith that must extend to the future as retirement benefits have only recently been a part of the compensation packages.

I’ve met some incredible people and have built some lasting, life-changing relationships. I’ve also been involved in relationships that produced pain deep enough to plunge me into depression and the contemplation of leaving ministry entirely.

I’ve experienced the soaring highs of having books published, being asked to speak around the world and building, planting and pastoring churches. I’ve also experienced the searing lows of crushing self-doubt, rejection, marital and familial conflict and strain. In the past 3 years I’ve…
… Relocated my family across the country to help care for my Alzheimer-afflicted mother.
… Experienced her death.
… Revealed the identity of my father that I’d kept secret for 34 years.
… Left one ministry and started another.
… Entered into the trying world of parenting 2 teenagers.

I’ve hit a wall.

I find myself in a place of deep emotional, spiritual and relational dryness and fatigue. I have not stopped fulfilling my responsibilities of teaching, preaching, leading, writing, parenting, etc., but it feels as though I’m running through sand in combat boots – it’s a tiring struggle. The question is, “How will I respond to it?”

What about you? Have you been here? How did you deal with it? How did you come out of it? Did you come out of it? What did you learn?

I have always been fascinated with the Biblical account of Moses at Kadesh that chronicles what may have been the greatest failure of his leadership career when his decision to strike the rock resulted in God not allowing him to lead Israel into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:1-13). Quite frankly, this passage both fascinates and scares the daylights out of me for a couple of reasons! First, it has always seemed like a harsh response (dare I say over reaction) by God considering Moses’ stellar track record. Second, I’ve wondered what striking the rock looks like today. More specifically, I’ve wondered what it would look like in my life and ministry.

The Lord has led me to explore this passage with a goal of ruthless self-examination:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12).

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139:23-24).

I’m fairly confident that I am not the only pastoral type who has “hit the wall.” Whether you are where I am, have already passed this exit or are approaching it, I’d like to invite you on this journey with me to look deep into your heart and mind for some self-discovery.  Our minds, ministries and marriages may hinge on what we find and what we do about it.

Jason P.

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8 thoughts on “Striking Rocks, pt.1: Hitting the Wall

  1. I admire what you’re doing here, Jason. It takes great courage to be vulnerable.

    • Thanks, Mello. I pray that others have the same courage. As I like to say, you cannot be healed until you reveal that which has been concealed. Healing requires honesty.

  2. I’m definitely in the midst of this right now. I’m leaving the ministry I’ve been in for 12 years…haven’t told very many people yet, but it has left me feeling terrified at times. I too, have been burdened for many years over the mental loss of my mother’s faculties. in the last 2 years our marriage has become very difficult, and parenting has rocked me to my core. I’ve not gotten through it yet, by any stretch but I am trying to hold on by inviting many people to care for me, asking many people to pray for me, trying to cling to the Lord for dear life, therapy, anti-depressants and a refusal to give up. it’s by the Lord’s grace more than anything I’ve done…that’s for sure.

    • Thank you for your honest sharing. I know exactly where you are and it is the reason why I’m making the effort to create this forum – so you can have a place to be real with others who understand and have your soul cared for. I believe you are taking the right course of action by inviting people into your life to pray for and love on you. I pray that Musings can be a safe and healing place for you. I pray that God would give you rest for your soul and peace for your troubled spirit. I pray that you would know, perhaps like never before, the full meaning of your name – Grace – and experience the wasteful, reckless extravagance of God’s unconditional, positive regard for you. You are loved and accepted by God, not because of what you do, but because of who you are. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Is. 41:10).

      • Brian K. Beverly

        Hey Jason,

        My Uncle Seth and Mentor shared your vision of getting ministers to open up and share with each other. He passed in 2007 from Parkinson’s at the age of 77. Social media was not as big as it is now and even more striking Uncle Seth was pecking with one shaky finger. That’s how much he believed in ministerial networking! As far as “hitting a wall”, as you know, Blackaby would just call it a crisis of belief. Thanks for turning me on to his book “Knowing and Experiencing God.” I too admire you.
        Your friend and brother,
        Brian

      • Thanks for your comments, Brian. I agree with you and Uncle Seth that ministerial networking is critical. Your post raises a couple of thoughts for me.
        1) A non-pastor friend who knows my heart made the following comment in response to my vision for this online network: “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here. It may be a lonely ministry if most of your readership is pastors who are not all that comfortable in the blog culture.” Do you think that pastors, while thinking that it is important to connect, are nevertheless, too busy or too guarded to participate in this initiative?
        2) What do you think Blackaby meant by this statement? Do you think that he meant that “hitting a wall” was a sign of a pastor exhibiting a lack of faith, an indication of spiritual weakness?

  3. Bob Rickard

    One of the problems when you “hit the wall” can come from where you least expect it. That place is when you go to get help from a counselor or doctor. Instead of being looked upon as someone that should be respected for seeking help, you get just the opposite from the Church community or leadership.
    Things like, “if your faith in the Lord was solid you would not have problems”, or “You are not up for the job in ministry”, and “you need to leave start to be said”.
    I know many who keep getting help a secret so they will not appear unfit to their job in the Church. So hitting the wall, struggling with life an issue, wondering where God is leading you, becomes something you hide from others and that starts a terrible circle of loss of hope.
    Thanks for putting this page up.

    • Bob, you are so right. God’s word tells us that it is in our weakness that His strength is perfected (2 Cor.12:9). Yet we still seem to struggle both at receiving the grace that God promises and giving the grace to others that He commands.

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