Being a pastor is hard. This is not a complaint; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the reality.
Most people don’t know what makes being a pastor hard. Yesterday someone talked about preaching being hard. While preaching takes extensive preparation over a lifetime, that is generally not what a pastor would describe as hard or onerous work. In fact, most of the pastoral work we do is exactly what we signed up for. For example, I knew from the time of my call that I would preach, witness, counsel, encourage, study, lead, and perform many other tasks that belong to a pastor.
Sometime in the future I hope to write about the exasperating part of ministry. For me, it is those people who expect perfection of everyone except themselves or those who live angry lives and take it out on the easiest mark around–which usually is the pastor.
But today I want to talk about what I didn’t sign up for and had no idea that I would be thrown into. This is what I call a pastor’s hardest days.
For me, the hardest days relate to the death of a child. Of all the things I see, this is the most difficult grief I deal with. There is simply no adequate way to describe all that parents experience when they lose a child.
What has happened in Newtown, Connecticut, is absolutely terrible times 20.
How do you help people who experience such pain?
First, you spend time with the parents and siblings, grandparents, and other friends and family. The most healing thing you can do is simply to show up. The parents of these children need people who care and who won’t forget. Saturday, I heard the father of Rachel Scott (killed at Columbine) interviewed about what he would say to these parents. He gave an amazing answer. He said that the people who can help them most are family, friends, and church. They don’t need experts; they need friends.
Second, you deal with them truthfully. Most of us don’t have many answers right now. We will have to say “I don’t know” many times. Grieving people don’t expect all the answers. They do appreciate support. Many times, your most helpful act will be to sit quietly.
Third, I try to help people know the God who cares and who will never forsake them. Jesus asked Simon and the disciples if they too would leave Him. Peter answered: “To whom else can we go? You have the words of life.” People who are experiencing unimaginable grief need the words of life. As we pray and share their hurts, we help them heal.
There is no formula for helping parents who lose children. As we pray and seek God’s guidance, we will begin to know how to help our friends with their unspeakable grief. If you would like to read related articles, please click here read about what we can do right now. Click here to read what I wrote about the shooting earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado.
Nothing burdens me like parents who lose children.
Let us pray for these parents and their community. They have difficult days ahead of them.
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