Another summer came and went with the ministry opportunity I wanted being given to someone else. It felt awful to be passed over. It made me worry that maybe I wasn’t called by God after all, maybe I had heard wrong. A couple of weeks later I had a conversation with a trusted mentor who helped push me. While it’s okay to feel disappointed, she pointed out that I was wallowing in self-pity and it was time to move past losing out on this opportunity. Here are a few things I learned from that situation that helped me get unstuck from disappointment in ministry:
1.Look to scripture— The Bible is filled with the stuff of life. In other words, it is jam packed with real people who lived real lives and dealt with real challenges. The context may be different in some ways, but God teaches us through the lives of ordinary people in the Bible. In the case of a ministry disappointment, we can be especially thankful because there are many stories of what it looks like to deal with disappointment. One example is to look at the disciples. In Luke 9, Jesus and his disciples encounter a desperate father whose son has an evil spirit. He cries out in the crowd for Jesus’s help to heal his son saying, “I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” In other words, they had a total flop. They had tried and failed to do the ministry that Jesus had empowered and entrusted to them only 40 verses prior. In Mark’s testimony of this same event, it follows that Jesus teaches the disciples after this failure. And the rest of the events in Luke’s account of Jesus’s life testify that the disciples did not leave Jesus after this event. They kept learning, following, and trusting. While ministry has its share of disappointments (even Jesus’s closest friends experienced this!), God teaches us in the Bible that disappointment, and even failure, does not change God’s call on our lives to learn, follow, and trust Jesus.
2.Get humble and learn— Every situation in life offers the chance for an honest look at our lives and for the opportunity to learn. Pray and ask God to show you the truth and how you can grow from it. If I was being honest at that time, I knew that I was not ready for that ministry opportunity I wanted. I had not put in the time to be prepared and was more interested in a position of authority than I was in serving God. That realization was a tough pill to swallow, but that disappointment allowed room in my heart for God to humble me. It led me to repent and make changes so that when a ministry opportunity presented itself in the future I would be equipped with the proper skills and with a humble heart to serve God.
3.Do the thing in your hand to do— Disappointments can often lead towards self-pity and isolation, making us spend our mental and physical energies ruminating endlessly on our lack. But the truth is, God has given us an abundance of ministry opportunities even if the one you wanted is not the one in your hand. Look at your life and ask, “What and who has God put in my sphere of influence today?” Being called to ministry is a call to service, a call to love God and to love others with our whole lives. It is a call to set down the desires for power, position, and glory for the ordinary gifts of everyday life filled with people and a world that God so desperately loves. One disappointment (or even many) does not limit God’s call on your life to serve. There are people we encounter each day who need a breath of God’s love for them— and that is the ministry that is always in your hand to do. So do it!