It’s been over a year since publishing Moving On: Surviving the Grief of Forced Termination. Since that time, I’ve met some wonderful ministers and their spouses via emails and phone calls. I’ve listened to their stories of pain and betrayal. I’ve been inspired by their commitment to Christ and their determination to live their lives in a way that brings honor to Him, regardless of how the church treated them.
So it comes as no surprise that these folks have been on my mind during this season of Lent and especially today, April 8, 2017. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Four days later will be Maundy Thursday, then Good Friday, and then, thank God, Easter Sunday.
If you are a minister who’s been terminated, this season is for you. For many of you, this is the first Easter in 20 or 30 years that you have not had a pulpit to fill. For the first time in your adult lives, you’re wondering where you’ll go to church on Sunday. For some, you’re wondering if you’re going to survive the grief.
If that describes you, remember this:
- From the outset, religious leaders criticized and slandered Jesus (Matthew 9:34).
- Early in His ministry, religious leaders began plotting Jesus’ death (Matthew 12:14).
- Religious leaders stirred up the crowds against Jesus (Mark 15:11).
- Jesus’ accusers twisted His words, taking them out of context and using them against Him (Mark 14:58; Luke 23:2).
- Jesus was betrayed by someone close to him (Matthew 26:14-15, 47-50).
- People who once cheered Jesus turned against Him in a heartbeat (Matthew 27:22-23).
- When Jesus needed His friends the most, all but a few deserted Him (Matthew 26:56).
Let’s put it another way:
- If you were forced to leave your ministry because of unjustified criticism and slander . . .
- If a group of people in your church plotted against you . . .
- If leaders who opposed you stirred up the congregation . . .
- If your opponents took your words from meetings and private conversations out of context and used them against you . . .
- If someone close to you betrayed you (mentor? staff member?) . . .
- If church leaders subtly manipulated the congregation so that, seemingly overnight, those who loved you suddenly wanted you gone . . .
- If those you thought you could count on deserted you when you needed them most . . .
. . . then this season is for you.
One of the undeniable truths of Easter is this: Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through. Every single moment of pain. Every horrific memory. Every cry of anguish. Jesus understands.
And the ultimate truth of Easter is this: Evil will not win.
Evil did not win on the cross.
Evil will not win in the pain of your life.
Victory. Will. Come.
If you are still in the darkness of grief, hang in there. Grieving takes time. Hold on to the truths of Easter. Jesus understands exactly what you’re going through. And because of His death and resurrection, victory will come. Hold on, my friend. Victory will come.