Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually troubling problems. These are bruised and painful areas, things that result in terrible devastation in our lives and loved ones. Here are just a few of them:
- alcoholism and drug abuse
- mental illnesses
- sex addictions, internet porn
- physically disabled
- chronic depression
- suicidal thinking
- religious deception, cults
- on and on…
This isn’t a definitive list by no means. (Although each are substantial issues of pain and conflict.) But it’s strange, as defeated strugglers we often feel intimidated by leadership in the Church. We feel frustrated, and very much alone. This is a problem.
It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are afraid.
Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men. And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal. We need to make room for our sisters to help us out. (Just a thought.)
Often rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of self-sufficiency and invulnerability. But we are still afraid deep down, and our weaknesses effect us profoundly. We are afraid of disclosure. We fear that some will find out who we really are inside. It seems everyone is hiding something; especially us.
Because we’re strugglers filled with great deal of pain and confusion, we feel lost. And no one will help us.
We can easily label ourselves as “hopeless” and very lost. Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. (But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin but one.)
Some have heard (or misheard) that they are going to hell no matter what they do, and that they are truly lost and irrevocably separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because when “we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Many of us who struggle have an ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get really strange whenever we meet them– a sort of a deep change comes over us when we shake hands with them after the service. Deep inside we can be afraid of the ‘man of God,’ and think he is going to ‘see’ the sin and weaknesses in our lives, and shame us publicly (see Joshua 7).
Pastor, you should understand that some of us feel pretty much lost all the time, and afraid when we meet you.
Typically, we pretend or even avoid those who are sent to pastor us. As a result of our flaws and weaknesses we want to separate ourselves from the Church. This reality is we feel like we don’t belong. We may feel like a hypocrite just coming to the service. We end up going out of duty or habit. That is a warning light of trouble.
Often we try to live a life insulated from any outside intervention. We avoid people who could really help us. We are terribly sick, and need a pastor or elder to help us work through these things. Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even then with some tears.
There is a spiritual war that encompasses us. The torrents of hell are released on us and we discover Satan working in various ways. Admitting you’re under attack is not weakness. (If you knew what you are really facing you’d be terrified.) But Jesus Christ stands to intervene for us. He stands and intercedes for our souls–all the time
We must pray for our pastors. Sometimes their title and gift is hard to carry. Their gifting is often limited by extraneous things, and yet Jesus, the Good Pastor comes alongside to help them. Pray hard for your pastor. Cover them and bless them.
An Open Note to All Pastors and Leaders
There is almost always a definite frailty that is common in the hearts of strugglers. They have fought for their spirituality, sanity, personality and even their sexuality. Most of them have very few relationships, and the ones they do have are seldom healthy. They are intimidated by authority and afraid of any kind of transparency. They live under an enormous pile of shame and guilt.
We need good shepherds who can be deliberately gentle and tender. Pastors and elders ought to reflect the astonishing grace of God. We need His deep love, and you must show us what that’s like. Pastor, please show them how much they are loved. Verbalize it. We need you to help us, and share His love and acceptance, and yours as well. We need to be immersed into perfect forgiveness. We need the Word of God and the healing that it brings to our souls. We need someone will protect us from the enemy.
It isn’t you being the perfect pastor, but us together knowing a perfect God, who flows through our imperfection quite willingly.
Some of us are not really normal. It is highly unlikely we will be completely healed in this life. We are dealing with that. Also, some of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we are flawed and we struggle a lot with it. We are still members of your flock. Let our gifts touch our brothers and sisters. Don’t hinder what God wants to do. Stay faithful to the flow.
We know that pastoring has its trials and joys. We certainly don’t want to be a burden. There are forces of evil attempting to destroy us both. Be courageous, and cover both of us until the storm passes. We look forward to seeing Him face-to-face. We’ll worship Him together in glory.
We love you with His deep grace, and we honestly want to pray for you and the work you do. Tell us how.