How can God Possibly use Brokenness in a Pastor’s Life?

Circumstances beyond our control (demographics or a location that hinders growth), an uncooperative board (they say no to an important initiative), or even family issues (a chronically ill child who requires an inordinate amount of energy) can hinder and dilute a pastor’s ministry efforts. These experiences can bring painful brokenness to our hearts. We seldom immediately see any benefit from our brokenness.

Brokenness has touched my life in the two places where it hurts the most: my family (one chronically sick child, one who rebelled for five years) and my ministry (many dreams yet unfulfilled). But Jesus said brokenness must precede fruit bearing.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.[1]

The nineteenth-century Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard captured the essence of this idea with this statement. “God creates everything out of nothing—and everything God is to use he first reduces to nothing.”[2]

Saving your Family without Killing Your Ministry

pastors balancing family life and ministryMy wife and I have 3 grown kids. One has survived a brain tumor, one was a straight arrow, and one was a challenge. My oldest daughter Heather (our challenge) even co-wrote a book with me about our experience called Daughters Gone Wild-Dads Gone Crazy.

I’ve excerpted 5 insights from our book about how to keep your family intact in the pressure-cooker of ministry.

1. resist turning words into weapons.

Heather got me so angry that at times I said some things I wish I had never said. I wish I could have taken back some of those angry words. Prov. 12.18 (NIV-G/K) Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. One psychologist suggested that we wait 30 seconds before responding in an angry situation.

2. stoke the relationship fire with your children to keep the relationship alive.

If you’ve ever gone camping, to keep the fire going you must stoke it, stir it. Often when I was hurt so much, I had to make a conscious choice to reach out to her in tangible ways to let her know that I loved her. Just small things like simple grace gifts kept the relationship alive. Although I stumbled often, Heather later wrote us a letter that really touched our hearts. Here’s what she said.

“Thank you for never closing your heart to me. I wouldn’t be what I am now if you had…I always felt the love of God from you…through your unrelenting pursuit of me in my times of darkness, through your never giving up on me, through everything you did for me in spite of how horrible I was..that’s how God loves us.”

3. No matter how much your children may hurt you, never close your heart to them. At times I felt like giving up on her. But by God’s grace, I kept my heart open to her. I’m glad I did because I got to experience the fruit of reconciliation later.

4. Keep a good sense of humor. Sometimes you simply must laugh between the tears. One night Heather showed up at 4 in the morning as we caught her climbing into the window on the biggest day of the year, Easter Sunday…I had to keep a sense of humor to keep from killing her.

5. Choose your battles carefully and lose some on purpose. Some battles with your children are not worth the fight. On biblical/moral/ethical values: stand your ground. On personal preferences: it’s worth losing some of those. Dress, a clean room, and some music choices are personal preferences. I love what one person said, “if you can cut it off, wash it out, or grow it out, don’t sweat it.

What have you learned that has helped you keep your family intact?

Related post: If you knew you’d never see someone again, what would your parting words be?