In 1967 I went away to Navy boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois. The first week was especially hard. An experienced recruit who was half-way finished with boot camp was in charge of us during that first week, and he was determined to make it as difficult for us as it had been for him. It's probably safe to say that all 80 of us in our company hated him...until the last evening he had us.
The next morning we would leave processing and go across the highway to really begin our boot camp experience. Before we turned in that final night he called us all together and admitted he knew he had been difficult on us. He said it would only get harder when we went across the road the next morning, but he wanted us to remember one thing. We would never be asked to do something we could not do, and we would never be asked to do something that tens of thousands of sailors had not done before us. He assured us that the things we might be asked to do may seem impossible, but they were not.
I've never forgotten that advice. It serve me well during my 12 week boot camp experience and throughout my four year enlistment. I still remind myself of those words of wisdom even though it has been 48 years since they were spoken to me. Life can get hard sometimes, and it's helpful to remember that others have faced the same challenges I've had to face, and they came through those challenges victorious.
Like every bivocational pastor, I faced numerous challenges during my ministry. There were times I felt like giving up. A few times I wasn't sure I could do what needed to be done, and there were times I wasn't sure it was worth it even if I could. Then God would remind me that He would never ask me to do something I could not do and that thousands of other bivocational pastors had not done before me. That reminder never failed to renew my strength and my commitment to the calling God had given me.
No doubt, you have had those challenges that threatened to overwhelm you. Family and friends may have even told you that it's too much and you need to give up. Please don't do that. Whatever you are going through, you are not the first one to experience it. Others have overcome the same challenges that you face, and you can too.
My latest book, The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor's Guide, tells the story of ten ministers I have coached over the years. These ten were chosen from the many I've worked with because the challenges they were facing will be common to many of us in ministry. In our coaching sessions each minister has the opportunity to tell me what he or she wanted to work on in that session. We tried to identify the main issue and find solutions to address that issue. At the end of each chapter, the ministers tell how they benefited from our coaching relationship and the victories they enjoyed over their challenges.
Chances are good you will find some of your challenges in their stories. You may even find that the solutions that worked for them will also work for you. At the very least, you'll be encouraged to know that others have faced the same issues you face and were not destroyed by those challenges. Remember, others have faced your struggles before you and found ways to emerge victorious over them. So can you.