Don’t get me wrong. We have joy in ministry too, more than we deserve. The overall tenor of our ministries is not normally the minor key. But there are times that we will mourn. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44); we will sometimes weep over our people too. Paul felt sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart (Romans 9:1-2); there may be days that we feel this too.
I thought I could pastor without it. No more. If you’re a pastor, you’re going to have to learn to pastor sometimes with a broken heart.
I remember meeting a congregation member in the aisles of Costco. I spoke of the funeral service I had just led for a dear old saint in our church. I described how hard it was to bury her. “It never occurred to me that you would feel that way,” she said. It had never occurred to her that pastors who read Scriptures at gravesides are reminding themselves, as well as everyone else, of what is true when we need it most.
It’s not just funerals. It’s the person you pass on the bike who used to come to church but never turned to Jesus in repentance and faith. It’s the person who shows up week after week buried under a protective layer because of profound hurts experienced in the past that are obvious but unknown. It’s the person you meet over coffee who not only tells you about their sin but clings to it. It’s the sadness of preaching the grace and tenderness of Jesus, and then seeing someone determined to get as far away from that grace as possible.