Ministry changes as the years go by. It also changes as we gain more experience, change our marital status, welcome or say goodbye to children, and as we move from one location to another. These and the myriad of other causes for change affect not only ministry, but our emotions related to home.
Ministry is a type of home.
We’ve all heard about how people who retire struggle with a loss of identity because they’ve been defined by the work they’ve done. The same can happen in ministry, even when it simply changes from one location to another or one kind of ministry to another. We were comfortable and confident in what we were doing, but now it looks different. We might even have to learn another language to accomplish it. We’re hit with uncertainty and question God’s will.
There is a grief process when we change our ministry focus.
It’s important to realize that just as we have homesickness for what we’ve known as “home,” we can also long and be sick for a time in ministry when we were seeing the Lord at work through us. When my husband and I were forced out of Syria by the government, we grieved deeply for the ministry we left behind. God had grown our church, our discipleship groups were multiplying, and people were regularly coming to the Lord. All that changed in ten days.
As we moved across the border into neighboring Lebanon, we grieved and questioned—well, I grieved and questioned. My husband trusted God’s timing. However, in the midst of that grief and loss, God opened new doors and opportunities to serve. It took time, but we adjusted and realized God had prepared the road before us for this next season in service.
We grieve losses we cannot control as well as those we can. Give yourself time to feel the pain of loss, while trusting the God who called you to be working all things out for his good. Acknowledging the loss before God is the first step to healing and moving forward.
Ministry looks different in different seasons of our lives.
I would never have imagined doing what I’m doing now (writing and speaking) thirty years ago, when I was in the midst of serving overseas. The journey began with small steps—writing reports, articles, one book, then another. While my focus has changed, my call hasn’t. God has used my gifts throughout the years in so many different ways and settings. Still, I’m humbled to realize that no matter my location, no matter my situation in life, he’s continuing to open ways for me to serve and have an impact for him in the lives of others.
Don’t be afraid to see the seasons of life bring changes to your ministry. Be at home in however he leads you to serve.
Grace and Peace
To find out more about accepting the seasons of life, check out my latest book Not in Kansas Anymore: Finding Home in Cross-Cultural Service. It’s available in e-book and paperback formats.