I love preaching even more than I like breathing, eating, or taking a walk on the beach. So it was very strange recently when I found myself having absolutely no desire to preach.
What could the problem be?
Of course, some pastors preach every Sunday and are simply burnt out. I could never keep that kind of schedule again. But since I haven’t preached in several months, burnout clearly isn’t my problem.
Another part of my melancholy over the issue is the fact that things didn’t go well the last time I preached. Every pastor has faced this at one time or another. Your sermon is a dud on Sunday, and by Monday you’re thinking of switching careers.
At other times, a preacher may simply be experiencing spiritual dryness. It’s horrible trying to preach a message to others when you yourself feel empty and disconnected with God.
And a similar phenomenon occurs when there’s some kind of emotional trauma going on in your personal life—such as a trial in your health, finances, family, or relationship with church members. It’s no wonder you don’t feel much like preaching when you’re bleeding inside.
Whatever the cause may be, it sure helps if you have a friend or two to share your angst with. With some prayer, wise counsel, and encouragement, your perspective usually can be restored much quicker than you think.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on Jeremiah’s decision to quit preaching and prophesying. It’s hard to blame him, really. He was delivering lots of bad news to the people of Judah, and all he got in return was ridicule and rejection.
Finally, Jeremiah decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Why waste his words on people who responded with such contempt?
However, when he considered taking a preaching vow of silence, that didn’t go well for him either:
If I say I’ll never mention the Lord
or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it! (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT)
What a dilemma this mighty prophet faced. When he boldly declared God’s message, no one responded in a positive way. Instead, he became a laughingstock.
But when he determined to simply shut up, he found himself in even more agony. God’s Word inside him was like FIRE in his bones! After becoming utterly worn out when he tried to hold it in, he finally said in exasperation, “I can’t do it!”
I don’t know what you are going through today. Perhaps you are tired of speaking out. Maybe you’ve given up making any real difference in people’s lives.
Yet my prayer is for God to ignite such fire in your bones that you won’t be able to remain silent. No longer will you hold back. No longer will you just go through the motions.
If you are dealing with burnout, I pray you will get the rest and renewal you need. If you’ve been wounded, I pray you will discover God’s healing balm. And whatever it takes, may the Lord restore the joy of your salvation and passion for your calling (Psalm 51:10-13).
May you feel the FIRE again, my friend. We need to hear God’s Word from your lips.