Recently I sat around a table with eight other ministers, and contrary to my normal behavior, I did very little talking. They spoke of loneliness and rejection. One DOM said, “As a pastor, you at least have church members who care about you that you can turn to.” Another responded to him, “What do you mean? I’m just a hired employee, and when I can no longer do what they want, they will discard me and get another.” Loneliness. Feeling like you are only a resource. I would love to write that this is a condition unique only to the ministry—but that would be a lie. It is part of the human condition. There is heartbreak and trouble everywhere and in every category of existence.
First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh was where I met Henry Blackaby. In the early 20th century it was the pastorate of Clarence Macartney, a man who chided his denomination for ousting J. Gresham Machen from Princeton over the issue of inerrancy. One of that church's most respected pastors was Bruce Thielemann.
Before coming to Pennsylvania, Bruce had been the pastor of Glendale Presbyterian Church in California, and while he was there, he went through a period of great darkness. On a particular day when he had just come back from a preaching mission to Africa, something happened. As he stood looking out his bay window over the city, he was overwhelmed by his loneliness, depression, and discouragement. Being unmarried he got out his contact list and started calling friends. He told them that he desperately needed to talk. Each person said they would love to meet with him but when they got out their calendars none of them could do it for at least a week. With some, it would take even longer. When Bruce got to the last name in his book of contacts, his friend (also a pastor) said, “Bruce, I will be glad to meet with you but right now my schedule is so heavy. Could we meet in a couple of weeks?” “No,” Bruce replied. “I need to talk to someone yesterday and you’re my last hope. I’m in serious trouble and I’m simply not going to let you blow me off. Could you meet me tomorrow for lunch, please?” The friend reluctantly agreed, and they met in a restaurant. After they had ordered, Bruce poured his heart out about his loneliness, depression, and discouragement. When he finished, his friend said, “Bruce, do you know why I didn’t want to meet with you? Last night I came home and found my wife in the arms of another man.” Both, in their own darkness, almost missed the need of the other. Later Bruce said, in an interview, "if anyone had been there that day, they would have seen two pastors holding hands and crying together."
Have you ever felt like Bruce, or Bruce’s pastor friend, that all is lost, and you are alone? Do you ever feel like a discardable resource? Everyone does at one point or another. Let me encourage you that in your darkest night, hope is found in God. Jeremiah gives us a great word of encouragement. "Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. (Lam 3:21-25 CSB)