By Sue Magrath
How are y’all doing? These last three months have been rough on all of us, but few more so than clergy. I’m Facebook friends with many of you, and I know how hard you are working, how tired and stressed you are. So let me just say this. You are doing a great job! I want you to really hear that and let it sink in. You’re doing a GREAT JOB! So just for a few minutes, I want you to receive these words of encouragement and take a respite from the many challenges you have faced during this chaotic and difficult time.
First of all, you need a break. You need some time off! You may say that there is no way that’s possible, but I’m telling you it is. You just have to learn to say NO to some of the things that aren’t utterly urgent! It’s also okay to ask for help. You are not miracle workers; you are human. You have basic human needs like food, water, and SLEEP! You need some space to restore your physiological, spiritual, and mental resources. Perhaps if you take just a little bit of time, you will remember that God is with you on this journey.
As I’ve thought about the challenges to clergy right now, I’m reminded of the prophets and the ways in which God was present to them, the ways in which God provided for their needs in the challenges they faced. Let’s look at Moses, for instance. Do you remember how Moses had a boatload of excuses for why he couldn’t do what God was calling him to? He is so deeply human! He really wanted to avoid going back to Egypt, so he kept countering God’s call with more excuses—“I can’t . . . they won’t believe me . . . I’m a lousy speaker . . .” But God kept supplying everything that Moses needed to venture out into the unknown. God gave him that staff that could turn into a snake and back and turn the waters of Nile into blood. God gave him words to speak, and a companion on the journey, his brother Aaron. God equipped Moses just as Paul promises in Hebrews that God will equip us for every good work.
In the same way, I have seen God provide and equip you with companions on the journey and the tools to work miracles (and if you are as computer illiterate as I am, you know what miracles I’m talking about!) The steep learning curve of technical issues and the ins and outs of social media have been navigated by way of your hard work, a few miracles, and a little help from your friends. Take a moment right now to remember the times when God supplied what you needed and give thanks.
The prophets also provide many accounts of the ways in which God sustained them when they were tired, struggling, afraid, and feeling threatened by the corrupt politicians of their day. Moses and the Israelites got hungry and thirsty, and God responded with manna in the desert and water from a rock. During the drought that Elijah predicted, God sent him to a hidden ravine near the Jordan River to hide from the disgruntled king who wanted to kill the messenger. And while he was in that ravine, God sent ravens to bring him food. Later, after Elijah angered Jezebel by defeating the prophets of Ba’al, calling down fire from heaven, he was yet again sustained by God through the angels that tended him under the broom tree. They gave him food, drink, and rest. And when he still felt that he couldn’t go on, God gave him a companion in Elisha, to ease his loneliness.
This tells me that God will also sustain you, by whatever means necessary, to help you through this unique time in your ministry. You don’t have to go this alone. God has your back. Everything you need will be supplied, so rest in that divine providence. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sue Magrath is a spiritual director and the author of several books. Her previous career spanned fourteen years in the mental health field, where many of her clients were victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and/or sexual assault.
Adapted from My Burden is Light: A Primer for Clergy Wellness by Sue Magrath.