Friday, July 15, 2016

When things don't work out

I had to have a discussion yesterday with a volunteer I'm responsible for at one of the ministries I serve.  It could have been a very uncomfortable discussion.  It could have been awkward and hurtful.
This is what the Lord did.

He reminded me to listen.  I only asked a few questions and gave the person time to think about how they really felt.  The main question was this.  "Do you feel like this is where the Lord wants you?"
A while ago I was volunteering at a church that I was not supposed to be at.  I poured myself out and it was never enough.  I suppressed the feelings of exhaustion and the very real sense that things were wrong and worked at understanding the pastor and believing he had the best intentions.  While the experience was horrific, God well and truly worked it for good.  I learned two things.

  1. No matter how good or worthy a charity, mission or ministry is, You may not be called to be there and that's okay. People will often stay when God wants to release them.  The reasons for doing so are many.  You want to avoid conflict.  You think service always means sacrifice.  You want to fill the need.  Whatever your reasons, it is good and right to check in with God and make sure that's where he wants you.  I would never encourage a minion to cut and run at the first feelings of discomfort.  That's not what I'm saying.  Sometimes sacrifice is what is called for and your feelings are being stirred by the flesh or the enemy to encourage you to leave where God has put you.  But sometimes, God is trying to get your attention.  I don't claim to have a five step program to help you figure that out but I can certainly tell you how it worked for me.  
    1. I have come to believe that while service is hard work it isn't soul sucking.  It's life giving.  Doing what the Lord wants you to do leaves you filled, not empty.  Exhaustion is not the same thing as empty.  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  That's why prayer and seeking are required.
    2. If you feel like something is wrong, figure it out.  In my case, I fought myself for a long time because I thought it was something wrong within me.  I laid myself before God and asked him to refine me in the fire of the trial that this service was, which He did.  I learned to see good in someone I didn't like.  To see things from another's perspective.  To think and pray before I approached a person with whom I had a conflict.  These were all good things.  But in the end, that sense of wrongness remained.  It was one of the ways God was trying to knock some sense into me because I wasn't listening to the subtle signs telling me to leave.  
    3. Set your emotions aside.  Emotions are tricky.  God is always trying to teach you something.  Always. Keep your focus on Him.  If you make a decision solely on how you feel it will always be an incomplete picture.  It can also cause you to execute the right decision in the wrong way.  
    4. Sometimes service is about picking up your cross and soldiering on.  Sometimes service is about picking up your cross and heading in a new direction.  
    5. Filling an area of need is a good and worthy thing, but sometimes you are filling a spot that God intended someone else to fill.  How can God call them to an area of service that you are occupying.  
  2. Recognizing when God has closed a door can sometimes be difficult.  It's not just opportunities or paths that God closes.  Sometimes he closes our skills and talents.  Tasks you had no difficulty accomplishing previously may suddenly end it failures.  If your creativity has suddenly dried up, your organization skills are suddenly gone and your mind is in chaos or your teachers spirit is suddenly impatient and unable to communicate ideas...there may be something going on.  It might be exhaustion.  Perhaps you just need to rest and be replenished.  Whether the problem is the enemy or not; Go before the Lord.  Examine and see.  Perhaps He's holding back the gifts He's given you until you are in the place He wants you to use them.
Just remember; 
Whether its you that is leaving or whether it's your ministry that is being left, it doesn't have to be a commentary on the person or the ministries character or worth.  It is good to follow the Lord.  Keep your focus on that.  


  1. Psalm 37:4 comes to mind. "Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

    Too many people misunderstand this passage. It's not saying that God will give you what you want. Instead, it's saying that he give you a desire to go where he wants you.

    Thanks J.D. for the reminder on how important it is to listen with your heart for God's direction.

  2. That was a really fantastic blog post! Thank you so much for your thoughtful sharing!