How I Almost Quit
Are you so discouraged you don’t know what to do next? I want to help you get through this. Maybe this will help.
The following quote is from my journal dated November 6, 1986. I had been at Bethlehem six years. If you have ever felt like this, remember this is twenty-four years ago and I am still here.
The point is: Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides.
Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethlehem? Or is this the stirring of God to cause me to consider another ministry? Or is this God’s way of answering so many prayers recently that we must go a different way at Bethlehem than building? I simply loathe the thought of leading the church through a building program. For two years I have met for hundreds of hours on committees. I have never written a poem about it. It is deadening to my soul. I am a thinker. A writer. A preacher. A poet and songwriter. At least these are the avenues of love and service where my heart flourishes. . . .
Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of massive willpower and some clear indications from God that this is the path of greatest joy in him long-term. But now I feel very much without those indications. The last two years (the long range planning committee was started in August 1984) have left me feeling very empty.
The church is looking for a vision for the future — and I do not have it. The one vision that the staff zeroed in on during our retreat Monday and Tuesday of this week (namely, building a sanctuary) is so unattractive to me today that I do not see how I could provide the leadership and inspiration for it.
Does this mean that my time at Bethlehem is over? Does it mean that there is a radical alternative unforeseen? Does it mean that I am simply in the pits today and unable to feel the beauty and power and joy and fruitfulness of an expanded facility and ministry?
“Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides.”
O Lord, have mercy on me. I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand, even when I know that most of my people are for me. I am so blind to the future of the church. O Father, am I blind because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not even live out the year, and you are sparing the church the added burden of a future I had made and could not complete?
I do not doubt for a moment your goodness or power or omnipotence in my life or in the life of the church. I confess that the problem is mine. The weakness is in me. The blindness is in my eyes. The sin — oh, reveal to me my hidden faults! — is mine and mine the blame. Have mercy, Father. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can scarcely lift my head.