Handling the Swings
As a pastor, you encounter people’s highest highs and lowest lows. We know Paul said to rejoice with those that rejoice, and to weep with those that weep (Rom 12:15), but how do you personally manage ministering to people individually during such times? Also, do you have any thoughts on directing your pulpit ministry when you know that some people in your congregation are celebrating great victories, and at the same time, others are going through great challenges?
Most of what we do in the pulpit addresses the swings from the highs and lows. Every Father’s Day and Mother’s Day we remember that some of our people aren’t celebrating but grieving. Some may have a painful reminder on these days that they didn’t have a parent in the home or they have recently lost their parent. We are sensitive to mention this and in our prayers we lift them up. Many times the conversations we have can be celebration with one person we greet and then crisis with another. I find that if I can tastefully address these things in the sermon it brings help to people because many experience these trials without saying a word.
Emotionally, we have to keep ourselves healthy so we can be strong for others and so we don’t allow the constant flow of issues we deal with to negatively affect us. Exercise, hobbies, soul care, and a solid prayer life all make sure we don’t get crushed in these highs and lows.
It’s pretty much a given, isn’t it? People are ALWAYS dealing with a wide variety of circumstances and situations that are either pressing then towards delight or desperation. Often, the highs and the lows are only separated by a single moment—a suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye, everything changes.
I guess that’s the point I think we should focus upon. EVERYTHING changes. The ONLY thing that is NEVER going to change is HIM. God doesn’t change. “As I was … that’s how I’m going to be. I AM WITH YOU!”
My goal is to continually remind people that they are NEVER on their own. They’re NEVER alone. Good, bad, or indifferent, God is with us. Oh… and so are we! We’ll walk with you; we just won’t “carry you!” (I say that part with as much love in my voice as possible!)
In the best of times, people need to be reminded that God is good to us, not because we’re good but because HE IS GOOD. They need to celebrate what they have and all they experience as a GIFT FROM HIM and not, even for a second, think that THEY ARE A GIFT to Him. It’s amazing how many people enter into great moments in life and forget to remember that HE IS GREATER. It’s also crazy how many are so quick to forget that no matter how great their challenges grow—HE IS GREATER.
Whether we’re talking about pulpit ministry or practical disciplines in daily life, it is my goal to proclaim this truth every day of my life. Every situation—each circumstance—is to be recognized as an opportunity to demonstrate satan’s defeat. My life motto: “Humiliate Hell.” I believe that the mountains of circumstances serve only to echo the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness and translated us into the light!
People will always be living in a mixture of emotional transitions. Leaders will always be guiding those same people towards elevating their trust in God. I don’t think this will ever change. I can’t imagine a weekend service where there “won’t be” representation of both abundance and want. But I’ve never experienced a gathering where He wasn’t present to minister to them all, either. In any case, my responsibility remains the same: serve God. His responsibility remains the same, also: be God.
That is definitely one of the greatest challenges of pastoring—that roller coaster. In an eight day period, I once did: 2 wedding rehearsals, 2 weddings, 5 church services, 3 visitations, 3 funerals and a Memorial Day Observance in the community. It is just the nature of pastoring sometimes. This October, I had one counseling appointment regarding something utterly devastating to someone and the next appointment was one of exuberant joy. I totally agree with you, this roller coaster is one of the biggest challenges there is.
Probably one of the most challenging areas as a Pastor is ministering to people when they have lost a loved one, especially when it is a child. It is easy to rejoice with people when a child is born, or someone is getting married; or they have seen a major victory in an area that a person may have been praying and believing. The challenge is ministering to people when life doesn’t go as planned; a prayer doesn’t seem to get answered; or a loved one passes away tragically or suddenly or at a young age. I have found that often it is just the “Ministry of Presence” that has more impact than anything I could ever say; being available when a person or couple needs to talk and just listening and allowing them to talk—even if it seems like they are rambling and all over the spectrum in their emotions and thoughts. I will encourage a person without trying to offer simple platitude. I have cried with people. I have been choked up as I share at a funeral. I believe it’s about being real with people and letting them know that you as a Pastor/minister are human too. I will let them know I don’t have all the answers to their questions, but I know the One who does. Mostly, I just try and be available if they need a listening ear.
Concerning how I direct my pulpit during these times of pulpit ministry when I know some are celebrating and some are facing challenging times, I try to be cognizant of this especially at times such as Mother’s Day or Christmas. I realize on Mother’s Day that within the congregation there are those who have desired children, but were never able to conceive. Others have had miscarriages and the wounds are fresh and sometimes deep. Still others have had abortions and have the scars from this experience. I always take time to pray during the service for those who have had an abortion, miscarriage or infertility. I desire for them to know that we love them, God loves them and there is no condemnation. I focus my messages on God’s goodness, grace, and mercy. And while we focus on mothers on this day, as a church and pastor, we do things intentionally to include all the women within the church. There are some that have never been a mother biologically, but many have been spiritual moms.
Whether privately of publicly, I never want to come across as condemning or portray someone as not having enough faith because of a challenge that they may be going through. Yet, at the same time, I try to encourage all that God is a God who loves us, answers prayers, heals, and delivers. And there are things that on this side of heaven we will not understand. As it says in Deuteronomy 29:30, “The secret things belong to our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children…”
This subject is somewhat of a hot spot for me, as I teach much on this subject. The dangers of high or low feelings—regardless of the cause—need to be handled with care and yet specific and appropriate answers are needed.
Many people are affected by many things; feelings are real to the individual. We have a responsibility to bring a greater reality into people’s lives than they are experiencing. To the person experiencing the highs and lows, it is their reality. Helping people to refocus through a challenge that creates a ‘low,’ to me, is the same as directing someone through a’ high’ in their lives. Both can come to a dead end if not steered correctly.
But the Gospel is a “one-size fits all.” It always works. I remember Brother Hagin saying in challenging moments to minister on love as it never fails.
From the pulpit, I like to illustrate the messages and use natural things around us to create pictures using the senses to engage people so they can relate, touch, and feel God. We must bring a truthful perspective. For example, the story that Jesus so carefully and caringly shared about the birds of the air and how He takes care of them and how we so much more valuable than they.
In my opinion as Minsters, it’s not just what we say but how we say it. Presentation is something we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us with. In a public setting, when a mix of different scenarios are before a pastor, it’s so important to remember that God is present to help every individual; the weight is not on your shoulders but His, and the Holy Spirit will perform God’s word as we set the stage .
Healing is such a major part of our ministry, whether it is moods, difficult circumstances, highs or lows, or for whatever the reason, the Holy Spirit is present to help the pastor and the listener. This amazing scripture comes to mind (Acts 17:27 KJV That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he not being far from every one of us). This is a general key to a successful outcome.
Listen well with eye contact because that person is the most important person in the world whilst you are with them. If you believe that, then they will experience it. This can be created in a corporate setting also.
Each and every Sunday, I am aware of the fact that people attending the service, no matter what their present situation may be, need to be encouraged. Even if they are presently experiencing a time of victory, there will come a time when they too will need to be lifted up.
Over the years I have endeavored to create an atmosphere that I call, “Brook Besor.”
The idea is taken from the story of King David in 1 Samuel 30. In this story we see David and his army out fighting for Israel. In their absence, their enemy comes into the camp and takes captive all the women and children as well as all their possessions.
David and his army pursue them and they come to a place called Brook Besor. It is here where many that are to faint to continue, stay behind. David and the rest of his army go on to recover everything that the enemy stole, but it’s what happens as they return to Brook Besor that we learn what church really needs to be.
1 Sam 30:21-25
…and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? But as his part is that goes down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarries by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.
David, in his wisdom dignifies their choice to stay behind and rest, by saying that they stayed behind with the stuff as if that was their responsibility. When the others refused to share the spoil, it was David that pointed to the fact that it was only because of God’s help that they had victory and it is here that we can see the challenge of the church.
Can we dare to be so gracious to those around us that need to just come in and rest, and if necessary, ride on the victory of others? In the light of the New Testament, we have no other choice.
Our David, Jesus the champion of our soul, has gone on to fight and win for us all!
We have no other choice but to let those that need to rest, those that can’t fight for themselves anymore because the battles of life have taken all their strength, to let those of us like them find rest without pressure and condemnation.
Brook Besor teaches us that it’s OK to rest.
Brook Besor also cautions us against arrogance. Just like David knew the victory was a gift, let’s remember the same. Salvation is just like David’s victory; unearned, undeserved. In the light of this, how can the strong criticize the tired.
Welcome to Church. It’s this kind of spirit that I have worked to establish in our church. As everyone realizes that there will be times of victories and times of trials, we can become as a body of believers, a hope and refuge for all.
I am constantly bringing this story to life by letting everyone know:
Are you weary? Catch your breath; we need you strong.
Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired because odds are, you too will one day need to sit down and rest.
As Jesus said in Matt 11:28-30, “…come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This has been a very relevant concern for us in light of my recent “widow maker” heart survival incident. I was in a coma for 6 days and Pam was informed I had brain damage.
As we have shared our story, we are aware that many people have not experienced the same outcome as we did.
We have been careful to share our story in a way that glorifies God, and at the same time, shows love and compassion for those who did not experience the same outcome. We have shared in churches where pastors are currently facing medical challenges and also in churches where widowed wives are still mourning the loss of their husbands. One church is currently being led by the widow of the deceased Pastor. Next week I will be speaking at the funeral of a friend’s daughter who passed away from breast cancer at 41 years of age.
What we have found, is that in spite of people’s pain, they still want to rejoice in our victory. Wisdom mandates that we do so in a way that is compassionate and imparts hope. Ultimately, our message is not built upon our absolute outcome here, but rather in how we enter heaven. More than ever, we realize how short our time is on this present earth.
Hope this helps. Our book, “Let’s Pray” is available on Amazon. It tells our story.
We have had the privilege and honor to pastor for over 35 years and have seen many people go through highs and lows. Often if someone has a high and it is a high that is applicable to others, we will have them give a testimony. This often gives other congregants faith to believe for a similar blessing. When someone is going through the lowest low, we do the best we can to give them biblical counsel from the Word.
Since we have done this for a long time, we assure those up against it, that we have seen others face similar circumstances and by their knowing how much they are loved by the Lord and their faith in Him, they will get through this. We make sure that the person going through tough times knows that it is not the Lord who is doing this to them. Often if the person going through tough times is not utilizing what they are taught by the Word, we kindly encourage them to do the Word, as it will turn the circumstances around.
If the church knows of someone being blessed greatly, we always teach that the Lord is no respecter of persons. He will bless everyone just as He has blessed this individual. We also encourage them to rejoice for the person, emphasizing that the Lord is good. We try to help everyone see that our worst day as a Christian is better than their best day in the world.
For those going through things, we share how their trusting the Lord will see them through and strengthen them so eventually nothing will shake them. We always teach that since the earth was cursed by the sin of Adam, life is often not fair, but the Lord is always there and He will always help them. If there is a strong biblical principle that those who are blessed have stood on to secure that blessing, we emphasize what they did to encourage the congregation.
During the times that I minister to those individuals that are experiencing the highest highs and lowest of lows in their lives, my simple answer is, I rely completely on the Holy Spirit in each case and the direct leading of the Spirit on any given subject. Other than that, I teach from contextual insight. This way I find is best to leave it up to them as their responsibility to what the Word is saying, especially on the subject of sin.
Handling the emotional swings is always a challenge in the life of a pastor. We love the people God has entrusted into our care, and we hurt when they hurt. During my second year of pastoring, a single mom in our church lost her eighteen month old baby girl to a serious illness. Needless to say, she was devastated and I was devastated. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I preached healing, I had laid hands on the baby in faith, and still she went home to be with the Lord. In my youthful zeal, I somehow felt responsible, and that was a huge emotional mistake. Dr. Roy Hicks gave me some valuable advice at that time. He taught me to never make yourself responsible for someone’s victory. We are responsible to pray, to keep ourselves in faith, to keep ourselves built up, but we are not responsible for someone’s miracle. That advice has helped me so much over the years. With the help of the Holy Spirit, that single mom got through it, the church got through it, and I got through it.
As pastors, we must keep ourselves healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically if we want to avoid the swings. Give people hope through the Word and the promises of God. Remember to share your own stories of trusting God when things went wrong in your life, when things happened that you didn’t understand. Tell them how you trusted God and how He worked things out for you, and that He will do the same for them.