Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.
“Pathetic,” he said. “That’s what it is. Pathetic.” He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.
“As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.” There was a crackling noise in the bracken behind him, and out came Pooh.
“Good morning, Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily, “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song and dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush…I’m not complaining, but there it is.” said Eeyore. (Winne the Pooh, 1926).
When I think of doubt I think of the quote above, and I think of Eeyore because all people—especially those in ministry—whether they’ll admit it or not, experience doubt. When the rest of the world seems to be going “round the mulberry bush” and acting as if there’s not a thing wrong in their lives I resonate with what A.A. Milne wrote, “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.”
Most pastors, if they’re like me, worry if whether or not their sermons are truly being heard, whether or not people are growing in their faith, and whether or not people take notice of how grueling ministry can be. Most pastors, if they’re like me, have a time or two muttered the same words my dear friend Eeyore has in some form or fashion because this world is broken and it’s not all “Gaiety. Song and dance.”
At times I find myself looking into the mirror before I leave for the office and think, “Pathetic, that’s what it is”, because I know that my best efforts can never do any true change in the life of a person. It’s all about the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those I come into contact with, but as a sinful man I want to know that my efforts do mean something. I want to see the fruits of my labors. I want to know that it’s not all in vain. I want to know that all the late nights studying for a sermon series or the sacrifices I’ve made to be away from family do matter not only to God, but to the people God has sent me to shepherd. Yes, I have doubts at times. I doubt my own abilities to lead and to preach. I doubt the seriousness of my faith and commitment to the mission of the Kingdom of God. I find myself listening to the whispers of Satan telling me “God doesn’t love me. You’re not that special to Him. He doesn’t hear your prayers for help.” It’s in those times I’m reminded of the prophet Jeremiah and his open complaints to God about calling him as a prophet and sending him to a people who openly mocked him: “O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; “you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day everyone mocks me” (Jeremiah 20:7).
Sometimes I am Jeremiah crying out to God wondering, “How long oh Lord? How long will this doubt last? Why do you seem so distant and far from me when I need you the most?” Sometimes I doubt my calling because I feel Satan attacking me relentlessly. I feel the critique and hear the whispers of derision. I have been slandered before and it hurts. I have been verbally attacked and it hurts. I have been “persecuted” by people I called friends and lost good relationships because I’ve stuck to the Word of God as truth. I resonate with Jeremiah in his turmoil and how he’s treated and how he doubts his calling to the ministry.
It’s there, however—in that same passage of Scripture where Jeremiah is complaining to God—that I find myself once more, because God never does leave. He never does forsake those whom He has called out to be preacher-prophets of His Word. He never stops loving and fighting for those whom He has chosen as His own:
“But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore, my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who test the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them for to you have I committed my cause. Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (Jeremiah 20:11-13).
What these verses remind me of is that God will hold me fast. He will continue to be my “dread warrior”, and He alone will succeed on my behalf. We find this to be the theme of a hymn recently rewritten by Matt Merker: “When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path. For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.”
I love that hymn. It has become my hymn, the soundtrack to my life, because I know that my God alone will hold me fast. He who has defeated Satan, Death, and sin will continue to fight my battles for me, and especially the battle with doubt. He has crushed the enemy, and because I know He has done this, I know that He too can and will crush any and all doubts that the Devil may try to worm into my mind. The gloom has an endpoint. Christ is coming back, and on that day there will be no more crying, pain, suffering, doubts, or shame because He is going to make all things new. He is going to wipe away every single tear, fix every single wound, and crush every single doubt every Christian has ever had. He is going to completely and perfectly restore us back to a right relationship with God the Father and with one another.
Pastor, friend, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, yes doubts in ministry do occur. Doubts in every facet of our life and faith do creep in, and at times seem like a deluge with no end. But to quote Eeyore one more time, “The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.” Amen, Eeyore. The downpour of doubt will end. Christ is coming back. Christ will heal all things. Christ will restore all things. Christ will hold you fast.