During this season of life, Sunday mornings are quite relaxing. After 30 years of actively serving the local church, it’s a nice change from the typical hustle and bustle of a minister’s home on Sunday mornings. My husband is currently serving as interim pastor at a church that has two morning services, one at 8:00 and one at 10:45. Scott leaves at the crack of dawn in order to preach at the 8:00 service. I have yet to make it to the 8:00 service. Instead, I enjoy having breakfast, getting ready for church and making the 30-minute drive south on Highway 69 at a leisurely pace. Right now, at this point in time, life is good.
This past Sunday, my morning routine moved smoothly until midway through my drive to church. Suddenly everything changed as I topped a hill and came upon a scene of emergency vehicles. Multiple ambulances, firetrucks and state troopers blocked the right lane. Flashing lights. Officers setting out bright orange traffic cones. A medical helicopter waiting in a field. A quick glance told me that a northbound driver of a white SUV had lost control of the vehicle, crossed the median and southbound lanes, and eventually landed in a field. Windows broken. Battered metal. Airbags deployed. A scary sight.
Traffic slowed to a crawl as officers diverted drivers into the left lane. Eventually the accident was behind me but the scene has stayed in my mind. What I saw in the span of 60 seconds reminded me that life can change in the blink of an eye. One moment, life is good. The next moment, your existence may turn to a horrific nightmare.
Just about anything can cause life to change and no one knows that better than a minister, especially a minister who has experienced forced termination. One moment your ministry was strong and productive and then the church called a new senior pastor who wanted to bring in his own staff. Or maybe you were asked to resign because the church was declining and key leaders felt a new, younger pastor was needed to turn things around. Or maybe the issue was doctrinal or financial. The list of things that can result in a minister being terminated in limitless. In the blink of an eye, you feel like you’ve lost control of your life as you careen across oncoming traffic and wind up wounded in a barren field.
As one who has been there and survived, let me offer 3 suggestions to help when your life makes a sudden shift for the worse. These are not pat answers and if anyone tries to give you a pat answer, turn and walk away. Walk away fast. That person has no idea what you’re going through or where you’re headed.
Cling to what you know in your head to be true. God loves you. God is sovereign. God will never leave you or forsake you. Nothing can separate you from God. Your emotions may be spinning out of control and you may not feel these things. Nevertheless, you believe God’s Word so you know they are true. Eventually your emotions will settle down but in the meantime, focus on what your head knows to be true.
Pray, whether you feel like you’re in the presence of God or not. Keep crying out to God. Keep asking Him for direction. For wisdom. For healing. For peace. If you’re angry at Him, tell Him. It’s not like He doesn’t already know. If you want to yell, yell. God is big enough to handle your expressions of pain. The key is to keep showing up. Keep praying.
Stay in the Word. Many ministers I know who’ve experienced termination have camped out in the Psalms. Were you betrayed? So was David. Did people plot against you to cause your demise? Yep. David, too. His writings are filled with the same anguish that fills your soul. Do you feel despised? Rejected? Read the gospels. Find strength in knowing that what you’re experiencing was experienced by our Lord as well. He really, really knows what you’re going through.
Maybe you can say, as I can at this moment, that life is good. If that’s the case, thank God for the life you enjoy. Thank Him for this season of rest, this season of good things, this season of grace. And trust Him to sustain you when things change in the blink of an eye because they can. And at some point, they probably will.