Recently, I was awoken before three in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. (My body still thought it was in Greece where we led a “Steps of Paul” pilgrimage!) I thought, I need more sleep! But then I realized, Even more I need the Lord. This is an opportunity for me to meditate on his words to me.

I was Ambushed in the Dark!

But as I lay down in my bed praying in the dark I was ambushed by anxious thoughts and fears! I’m giving up a paycheck that we’ve counted on for fifteen years so that I can be full time in the ministry of Soul Shepherding.

Doubts and criticisms started jumping out at me: “Have you really heard God to launch into this ministry? What makes you think that what you have to offer is so important? You’ve made a big mistake. Not many pastors will make use of Soul Shepherding. People won’t keep supporting your ministry. You’re going to fail. Give it up and turn back.”

I was standing in front of a wall of fear and I felt like running the other way! I didn’t feel up to the challenge of trying to walk through that wall of fear.

But then I realized that it wasn’t just my own negative thoughts and fears discouraging me. It was the Father of Lies and Accuser of Christ’s followers attacking me (John 8:44, Revelation 12:10) and so I started reciting Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, and other Scriptures. I especially found strength from repeating a simple Breath Prayer from the Bible that’s been a frequent lifeline for me: “In Christ alone my soul finds rest… Selah” (from Psalm 62:1, 5).

I Abandoned Outcomes to God

I thank God that by his grace I began to calm down. Yes, our future is uncertain, but I know that Christ is leading us. I say “I know” I’ve heard God and that he will provide for all the needs of Soul Shepherding, but I could be wrong!

So I abandon the outcomes to God. If things don’t work out like I think or if in some way I seem to fail that is okay too! God loves me and I am obeying what I’ve understood him to ask me to do. Whatever happens I will look to God to use the situation for my spiritual formation in Christ.

Stuck at the Wall of Fear Again!

But then I remembered that Kristi had another bad dream the night before: We had to sell our house and move our family to a small condo on a loud street in the city of London – it was cold, rainy, and gloomy! Because of Soul Shepherding it was the only way to pay our bills and to put our kids through college.

I was back at the wall of fear! It’s one thing to abandon the outcomes as it relates to me, but for my wife and kids? That’s even harder.

God’s Words, My Lifeline

I started breathing in deep to pray. I grabbed back onto my lifeline: “In Christ alone my soul finds rest… Selah.” (Psalm 62:1, 5)

Thank you Lord that you have helped Kristi to take courage from you and to join me in taking this risk. She knows that there are many pastors’ wives and others in ministry who need her care and counsel.

Then I sensed the word of the Lord coming to me in a personal way. I went down to my prayer room to listen to God. I started by writing in my journal a prayer of waiting on God:

In the dark,

Alone and quiet,

Kneeling before your altar, my Lord,

Waiting for a word from you,

Waiting for sunrise,

Waiting.

In the dark,

Alone and quiet,

Kneeling before your altar, my Lord,

Listening before one candle,

Listening at the cross,

Listening.

I sensed the Lord whispering to my heart in his gentle whisper, his still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). I wrote down what I discerned that God might be saying to me:

There comes a time when a leader is alone in the dark. That time is now for you. No one can take this next step for you.

Ahead of you is a wall of fear. I am with you, but you can’t see me. I am the risen Christ and I walk through walls (John 20:19-23). Take courage. Take my hand and follow me through your wall of fear and into the unknown. The hand I offer you is my words – from the Bible, of course, but also (in submission to the Bible) words like these that I speak to your heart.

Listen. Trust me. Take the next step.

Pastors Need Safe Places

Strengthened by these words I am taking the step to walk through my wall of fear and trust that Jesus is on the other side with his arms open to me. Kristi and I are are continuing to focus on providing face-to-face care for pastors, pastor’s wives, and ministry leaders dealing with things like loneliness, grief, anxiety, job insecurity, marital conflict, or family concerns.

Pastors don’t have a lot of safe places to be vulnerable. It’s not often that they have a meeting or group in which they can just show up and be ministered to. The heartbeat of Soul Shepherding is to help ministry leaders in whatever way they need, even if they can’t afford to pay for it. So to help them continue to minister to the dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people who depend on them we provide counseling, spiritual mentoring, groups with other pastors, consultations, seminars, and retreats.

I hope that our story encourages you also. Maybe you are hurting or facing a challenge and need to trust that God is with you as you take a step of faith in the dark? May you also hold onto the hand of Christ and follow him step-by-step so that you can be a blessing to others.

Kristi and I couldn’t “walk by faith and not by sight” into an unknown future if it weren’t for the ministry partners who help us to minister to pastors and leaders by praying for us, encouraging us, and investing financially. We thank God for this “partnership in the gospel!”

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