Many issues can keep a church from growing and hinder a pastor’s effectiveness. They include circumstances beyond his control (demographics or a location that hinders growth), an uncooperative board (they say No to his vision), or even family issues (a chronically ill child who requires an inordinate amount of energy). These experiences can bring painful brokenness to a pastor’s heart. And, we seldom see any immediate benefit from our brokenness. But could God use it in our lives? I believe so.
Brokenness has touched my life in the two places where it hurts the most: my family (a child chronically ill for 25 years and a child who rebelled for many years) and my ministry (many dreams not fulfilled).
Yet, I’ve taken comfort when Jesus explained that 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. (John 12.24)
And nineteenth-century Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard captures the essence of Jesus’ words when he wrote these words.
“God creates everything out of nothing—and everything God is to use he first reduces to nothing.”
Also, Richard Foster, one of today’s most influential voices on spiritual formation, describes one of the greatest benefits from brokenness. He calls it the “crucifixion of the will” and says it brings “freedom from the everlasting burden of always having to get our own way.” Always having to get our own way is the antithesis of the other-centered life Jesus modeled for us.
As I enter the sixth decade of my life and reflect over the brokenness I’ve faced as a pastor, I’m beginning to see its great value. It still hurts and I’d prefer not to face it. Yet, I’m experiencing the fruit of brokenness: inner peace, joy, and a purpose that supersedes ‘ministry success.’
How has God used brokenness in your life and ministry?
 Søren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Kierkegaard, ed. Alexander Dru (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 245.
 Richard Foster, Prayer (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 55.
4 thoughts on “Brokenness in a Pastor’s Life”
As I recovered from the darkness of my depression several realities surfaced.
1. I am less concerned that others might not like me.
2. I understand people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or even addiction. I now know what it is like to have no control over my mind.
3. I am able to see beauty in nature, art, and people that I missed before.
4. I am less emotionally driven.
5. I am able to comfort others who are broken, especially by mental illness.
And many more changes for the better have occurred in me.
Thanks Scott, good thoughts!
i think God has used brokenness in my life to continue to create a dependence on Him, a desire for God and his word and to shield me from depending on ministry ‘successes’ for my joy
Thanks Alison. good word.