By Tony Jones
When I was a music minister, it seemed I was always surrounded by people. There was always someone there, in part, because music ministers are always part of a staff of ministers and there really is always someone else there. I enjoy the presence of others, and I always enjoyed spending my days amongst other people. When my office was located in the back of the church, I would hear the front door open and I would walk to the front office to see who had come in. I am an extrovert who made the move to the pastorate a year ago.
No one prepared me for the loneliness, and no one prepared me for the different types of loneliness. There are three types of loneliness I have found and had to deal with over the past year.
The first is physical loneliness. I am now the only paid staff at a small rural church. When I come to work, there is no one to ask me how my morning is going, to offer me a cup of coffee, to be the sounding board for an extrovert who likes to think out loud. Oh how I took that for granted. I am now constantly alone with my thoughts and ideas. I have been able to handle this one in stride. I expected this loneliness and I often times find myself walking everywhere and anywhere in this small town, talking to my wife at lunch, or going for a tractor ride with one of our farming families. Those activities make a huge dent in the physical loneliness.
The second type of loneliness I’ve encountered is a spiritual loneliness. It comes without warning, and it usually involves a satanic attack. The only person who can cure this loneliness is God, and I think He has designed it that way. I used to think that pastors who said, “This job will drive you to your knees,” were a little over dramatic. Now I think they may have been underselling that notion a bit. This job will certainly drive you to your knees and I have often times felt like I was the only one there.
The third type of loneliness has been, for me, the saddest and hardest to deal with. I call it pastoral loneliness, but it doesn’t have to include pastors only. I have often heard leaders of various organizations and groups talk about how lonely it is at the top. I concur with their assessment. It is lonely to watch person after person blaze a path that leads to destruction. It is lonely to watch good people engage in attitudes and lifestyles that are un-Christian. It is lonely to feel like you are the only person who cares about the spiritual lives of your congregation. (I know more people in our congregation care, and maybe that’s just my pride talking.) No one prepared me for this type of loneliness, and no one could have prepared me for it.
The Spirit of God has comforted me in my times of loneliness, like no other friend could do. I have leaned more on Him in the past year than in any year in my life. I have been driven to my knees out of a desperate dependence on God. He alone can change the heart of people. He alone can bring conviction, and He alone deserves the honor the glory and the praise.
This job is lonely and sad, and well it should be, for if it was not, I would become to full of myself, too puffed up with pride. This job has to be lonely because only in our times of extreme loneliness and sadness do we learn how to utterly depend on God to supply all our needs.
Psalm 23:1 reads, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” He supplies all my needs.
Tony Jones is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rich Hill, MO. He blogs athttp://thespiritualwoodshed.com/.
Reprinted with permission from SBCvoices.com