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My first literal tears of joy were spilled while sitting on the curb of the sidewalk on Holman Street on the campus of Concordia Portland. I was part of a week long youth retreat as a semi-professional “youth staffer” the year before seminary. I was still considering whether or not the Lord had plans to use me as a pastor.
When the tears started flowing, I took that as a sign that yes, there was a calling for me here.
It was a pretty intensely focused spiritual retreat where high school kids re-visited their confirmation vows and examined their walk of faith. I wasn’t quite prepared for the way these young people, only six or seven years younger than me, sought me out for counsel and guidance. I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of their questions or the openness and trust with which they approached me.
After about a dozen really intense and very emotional conversations exploring the faith and life of young Christians together, it hit me. I was absolutely and completely humbled by the way the kids expressed their appreciation and told me that the Lord had used me to help them grow in their faith.
Their hugs and tears soon led to tears of my own. I had to get away outside by myself, because at first, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. A dear young pastor and friend, Dean Nadasdy, came over and found me and asked what was wrong. I haltingly told him that I was completely overwhelmed that the Holy Spirit would use someone like me to bear His Word of hope and life to these kids in such a powerful way.
He said, “It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it.” Yeah it is pretty awesome.
He helped me understand what I was experiencing. It was the joy of Christian ministry. I was sobbing tears of joy.
I can’t say that I broke down in tears of joy after every hospital visit or confirmation class in 30 years of ministry. However, I can say that throughout most of my years of ministry there was a strong undercurrent of joy. Not every Elder’s meeting concluded with rapturous laughter and hugs, but there was almost always a sense that God was indeed at work, here, among us, and that’s a cause for joy.
Sometimes the joy of ministry was experienced like the joy at a Christian funeral, down deep under the layers of sadness, pain and grief. Sometimes it was like the joy of being far from home, but knowing somewhere down deep that someone at home was thinking of me, loving me.
In the times joy was absent, I can see now that it was I who had wandered from the peace, hope and gratitude that my loving Savior always has readily at hand for me. Ignoring His goodness to me, at times, I lost the joy.
But joy comes when we work in the will of God, following his call, serving in His kingdom, sharing the love of Christ according to our gifts and God-given passions.
I pray that the joy of the Lord is your constant companion in ministry, sometimes in a tear, sometimes in a smile, always deep down inside. Joy is a gift of His Spirit, and His Spirit lives in you. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading.
A Congregational Wellness Weekend is designed to help create a ministry environment at your church or school where professional church workers can thrive and serve joyfully in their calling at top capacity. Let’s start the conversation today! Find more information on our website or contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman to learn more.