Pastor, Push Past the Pain

By Matt Henslee

A few days ago, I read a story about the baptism of King Aengus by Saint Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. I’m not a history buff, so I couldn’t tell you a thing about King Aengus, though it did make me hungry for a big ol’ steak! I know a little more about Saint Patrick, but this article won’t be a history lesson about either one of these men.

Instead, something happened of note in King Aengus’ baptism I thought was worth turning into an article. You see, at some point during the baptism, Saint Patrick accidentally stabbed the king in the foot. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever met a king, let alone stabbed one, but I suspect you and I both would shudder with fear if we did. Saint Patrick did, too.

After the baptism, Saint Patrick looked down to see a pool of blood beneath the king. Realizing what he’d done, he begged the king for forgiveness, probably hoping to save his head!

Saint Patrick asked, “Why did you suffer this pain in silence?”

The king’s response? “I thought it was part of the ritual.”

The king had no idea Saint Patrick had accidentally stabbed him; he went through the motions thinking it was a regular part of a baptism. Something like, “It’s my privilege to baptize you, my king, as my brother in Christ, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For we are buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life, and … stabbed in the foot.” No wonder this never caught on!

I’ve had the privilege of serving Jesus in some form of vocational ministry for more than years. Maybe you’ve served longer. Maybe you’ve served less. However, I suspect all of us have had a sharp pain (or a hundred) as ministers in the Lord’s service. No, probably not with a sharp staff thrust through your foot, but perhaps by a member’s sharp words that cut deeply. Well, brother, it’s “part of the ritual.”

When we lead, most (we hope) respond with grace and understanding. Some, however, respond with wrath and condemnation. I’ve been there, you’ve been there — it’s comforting to know we’re not alone in suffering pain as pastors. But let’s be honest: Knowing that every pastor on earth has hurt, doesn’t make it hurt less.

If you’re feeling a sharp staff driven into your foot (or back), please remember:

1.Pain is profitable

“We also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5 CSB).

Pain is, well, painful, but it’s not wasted. Look at that text again:

affliction -> endurance

endurance -> character

character -> hope

God uses our pain (the afflictions) to teach us and build our character. Even when we hurt, He’s still madly in love with us and caring for us.

2. Pain is purposeful

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB).

Pain isn’t only profitable; it has a purpose. Look at the text again:

all things + work together = for good

God uses all things, not just the good things, working it all together for our good and His glory.

3. Pain is promising

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 CSB).

Pain is a promising reminder that the best is yet to come, even though we’ll have to wait a while.

future glory > present pain

One day we’ll be able to look back in the presence of Jesus. One day we’ll see and understand all the whys and hows of our pain. Until that day, let’s keep “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2 CSB).

I’ve heard it said, “There’s no hurt like church hurt.” When you’re hurt, look to Jesus. He endured far more — even death. What’s more, He’s using our pain to grow us and mature us, preparing us for future glory, the Great Day when all will be made right!

Published July 30, 2020

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Matt Henslee

Matt Henslee (@mhenslee) is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, D.Min student of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a few books, including Evangelize to Revitalize and Text-Driven Invitation.