Ray Ortlund once wrote, “I have never met anyone suffering from too much encouragement in Christ.” Whether you’re a pastor, missionary, or lay leader, this likely hits close to home. Almost assuredly, you’ve faced discouragement in your ministry.
The question is not whether we’ll experience discouragement or not, but how to respond to discouragement when it comes. I’d love to give you four pieces of encouragement that have been healthy and beneficial for me when I respond to discouragement.
Boldly Approach the Lord in Prayer
If we’re going to confront discouragement in ministry, we must first go to the Lord. Our loving God hears our cries and sees our discouragement (Psalm 66:17–20). We have a Great High Priest who sympathizes with us in our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
Christ understands our pain and intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25). Our God is the Good Shepherd who leads us in the paths of righteousness and sees us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:3–4).
When we meditate on these great and precious promises, God uses Scripture to uplift us and remind us of his promises when we are discouraged. This is the sufficient encouragement we need to cling to during our discouragement.
Open Up to Your Pastors Within Your Ministry Context
Next, open up to your pastors about your discouragement. If you are a pastor, don’t hide this from other elders in your church, which communicates your trust in them.
Pastor, if someone opens up to you about their discouragement, receive it with gladness and joy. A Christian in your church has brought their pain and sadness with confidence that you’ll encourage them in Christ.
For my brothers and sisters in the missions field, consider reaching out to the pastor or elders from your sending church. If a church supports you financially, I pray they will support you emotionally as well.
Reach Out to Friends Outside of Your Ministry Context
Invite friends outside of your ministry context to join you as you wrestle with discouragement. Personally, it gives me great confidence to know that I have men who love me, want the best for me, and pray for me. These men guide and care for me when I face discouragement.
Invite friends outside of your ministry context to join you as you wrestle with discouragement.
In fact, Paul wrote to believers in Thessalonians to encourage one another, which is one of the gifts of being part of the family of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We do not have to endure trials alone because God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit and other Christians to encourage us.
If you don’t have someone to reach out to outside of your ministry context, take time to think about people from a previous season of life or another church in your area. It could be a roommate from college, a mentor from one of your internships, or another pastor in your city.
Be Faithful Where God Has You
What if another ministry opportunity arises that looks more promising than your current ministry context? What if church attendance keeps dropping? What if the finances aren’t coming through? All of these questions and many more run through the minds of the discouraged in ministry.
My encouragement is to be faithful where God has you. The God who led you through every circumstance will lead you through your discouragement. Since he is good and righteous, we can trust him to guide us and have a purpose when he places us in difficult circumstances and with difficult people.
For my brothers and sisters in the missions field, this likely hits home with you. Some of you may be in a missionary context that totally opposes the proclamation of the gospel. Some of you may have an opportunity to leave your mission field, but others of you may not. Sometimes continuing to be faithful means risking your life for the sake of the gospel.
Whatever your situation, be faithful where God has you and with what he’s given you. Faithfull keep sowing seeds in your missionary efforts because we have confidence the Lord will produce fruit.