I think everyone in ministry has seasons when every pastoral bone in your body gets broken. You ache and hurt. You become acutely aware that the beautiful lives God's given us are also "nasty, brutish and short." You feel like you've given your best, your best isn't working and you have nothing left to give.
I caught myself, looking with the vision doubling lens of transition, experiencing one of those seasons this week (can a week be a season?). My questions fell flat: instead of drawing attention to God's activity in their lives, the folk I disciple felt like I was checking up on their Quiet Times. My teaching fell flat: glazed eyes revealed that I failed to communicate the profundity of God's word. My serving fell flat: no one's life was noticeably better as a result of my ministry this week.
These seasons hurt. We wince to face them, become discouraged, question our calling.
But (even after only 6 years in ministry) I've become familiar with these seasons. God's work in the world and through us is, at times, a slow and hard to perceive work. Though I'm available, I'm not always pressed into service. Sometimes, when I am included, I miss the mark. Sometimes, rather than working through me, God is working in me.
I think back to that passage in Mark 9 where the disciples fail to cast out the demon. Jesus is up on the mountain with Peter and the Sons of Zebedee (the Big Three). Fourth place was up for grabs. Who would heal the boy? None of them.
Sometimes, I wonder if my best just isn't good enough. I wonder if God needs to expand my faith, to grow me before he does anything else through me. I think it would be a horrible thing to build too much on a shaky foundation. I think it would be a horrible experience to be in a place where my ministry exceeds my maturity.
When I bump into these seasons of ministry, it's easy to wonder if God can do anything about this, take pity on us and help us. I hear him say "Everything is possible for him who believes" and I respond "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!" Some days the emphasis is on the "I do believe" (as in "But I really do believe"). Other days, more aware of my unbelief, the emphasis gets placed on the second sentence. This in one of those other days. Help me overcome my unbelief!
I don't know what to tell you to do when the people ministering to you are in the middle of a week like this week. Be patient with us. Try to understand. Encourage us to pray. Remind us that we are God's children, not just his servants. Resist the consumer temptation to cast us aside when we miss the mark.
Everyone in ministry, if they love the people they serve, wishes they had more to offer. Some weeks, we wish that more than others. May the God of grace expand our best so that the ones we love may experience more and more of Him!