by Mary Somerville
Someone has said, "Being in the pastorate would be great, if you didn't have to work with people." Wouldn't that be ideal? Our husbands could study the Word of God all week and get up on Sunday morning and preach or teach or lead worship. There would be no problems to deal with, no heartaches to bear, and no hurts or misunderstandings. However, that is not ministry. It is not life. We are called to work with people who, like ourselves, are sinners who offend one another. We can sink into depression at this fact or we can overcome.
Some of God's choicest servants almost went down—their despair was so bad that it resulted in desiring God to take their lives. If you want company in your misery, read about Job (6:8-9), Moses (Num. 11:11-15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Jeremiah (20:14-18); they all viewed their situations as hopeless.
Moses may have thought that shepherding the sheep on the backside of the desert was better than shepherding a million or so rebellious humans. (Now that's a large flock!) In fact, Moses was so sick of the peoples' complaints that he wanted to die. He said, "Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of this entire people on me? I alone am not able to carry this entire people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness" (Num. 11:11,14-15).
Likewise, Paul had a hard ministry seeking to reach God's chosen people who had rejected their Messiah. Then he uses Elijah's situation as an example to not give up in his own ministry (Rom. 11:2-4). God's response to Elijah's discouragement was telling him that He had seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God has His remnant. Paul concluded, "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29).
God would sovereignly accomplish His will in the Jews as well as Gentiles. Then Paul bursts out with this doxology of praise, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out" (Rom. 11:33)! Paul would leave the results in the hands of the all-wise God, which is what we must do.
In the next columns, I am going to address three of the main ways that people hurt us when we are trying to serve them. We suffer from people deserting us by changing churches. At other times they hurt us by staying in the church and attacking us with criticism, complaints, and gossip. Finally they may completely reject our ministry and us. We are tempted to give up in despair, but God actually wants to use these hurts that people inflict to strengthen us.