The day after Sunday: from singing praises to singing the blues.
Mondays are the worst. That’s not just an Internet cliché, it’s the God’s honest truth. Mondays have a long-standing reputation of being the most loathsome day of the week. Being that they’re the first day after the weekend, they’re usually accompanied by little amounts of sleep and large amounts of coffee. For professionals, Mondays seem to represent a day full of catching up after the frivolity of the weekend and flurry of email replies. But miserable Mondays aren’t relegated to just those returning to their cubicles. It can also apply those who stood in pulpits the day before. Pastors everywhere fall prey to the “Mondays” too, perhaps even more acutely than you’re aware.
Churchgoers aren’t always privy to the struggles and strivings behind a sermon, let alone the countless other demands a pastor manages and juggles on a weekly basis. But as a pastor’s kid, I know firsthand the travails the Lord’s under-shepherd deals with. Unbeknownst to many, the day after Sunday brings with it a load of challenges and troubles that the Lord’s day doesn’t hold. The defeatism and discouragement that can swiftly set in after a less-than-stellar service or sermon casts an ominous shadow over this day. And after pouring his heart and soul into a message that’s met with less-than-glowing reactions from his congregation, a pastor can very quickly go from singing praises to singing the blues. This is why most pastors take Mondays off. There’s a lot to recover from. Too often, people ascribe to the harebrained idea that a pastor’s occupation is an easy one, because all they do is preach once or twice on Sundays and then just kick back, read, and relax the rest of the week. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Where most just see the pastorate as a cushy gig where you get to read a lot and be on stage every week, the unseen slog of pastoral ministry happens off-stage, outside of the pulpit, outside of church, even. A pastor’s job doesn’t begin and end on Sundays. The close of the service isn’t when a pastor clocks out. A sermon delivered is really only a small sliver of his responsibilities. Again, growing up a pastor’s kid, I knew this firsthand. I had frontline knowledge of the fact that my dad’s “job” was less about the pulpit and more about the people. In fact, his ministry had little to do with Sunday and more to do with Monday through Saturday.
A pastor’s real ministry isn’t necessarily on the Lord’s day, but on all the others days that come in between. These days are filled with struggling marriages, hurt spouses, whining deacons, and dying loved ones. They are filled with brokenness. Unfaithfulness. Bitterness. Betrayal. Suffering. They are filled with normal life. And it is in these difficult, dreary days that the pastor chiefly testifies to the grace and faith of Christ that meets us where we are. How a pastor speaks the gospel into these moments will drive how folks remember him. Which is why the gospel must remain paramount in the midst of it all. The greatest legacy a pastor could leave is to preach Someone else’s. Not the pastor’s ability, aptitude, or expertise, but God’s grace and sovereignty in and through the victorious Sundays and miserable Mondays. In fact, I would say that Monday morning exhaustion is there to remind you that this “ministry business” has nothing to do with your skill or strength and everything to do with the Messiah’s mercy.
There is nothing we can do in ministry that does not require God to act, if true fruit is to be produced. Everything pastors hope will take place in a person’s life with God remains outside the pastor’s own power.
There’s hope, there’s encouragement, there’s power in the Savior’s Word for you, preacher. His gospel is strong enough to speak into your weakness and exhaustion. What’s more, feeling fatigued on these miserable Mondays isn’t necessarily the problem, but where are you going to rest and recoup? Where’s your respite? Where do you run to recharge your heart, mind, and soul? If you answered with anything other than the Word, the rest you crave will forever be out reach. Only God’s Word of grace can give you the relief and comfort that allows you to press on in the work of the gospel. God is for you, preacher, in the highs and lows of life, of ministry.
Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 97.