Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day. If you have lost a child recently or in the past, know we are praying for you and know that you are not alone. In the post below, Pastor Ryan Williams, the Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Everett, shares about his loss and how the Lord has worked in his family's life.
Empathy, encouragement, enthusiasm, and excitement are all emotions people love to see and feel from their pastors as we engage with them, love them, and shepherd them.
But what do we do when we feel emotions that might not be as uplifting for our people; when we feel emotions like anger, pain, and fear? Do we sink those feelings deep into our heart and leave them there? Do we think of them as emotions we can only show the Lord? Or can we show these emotions to our people in a way that might make them feel a little uncomfortable, but ultimately encourage them with the deep humanity of their pastors?
Consider the humanity of Jesus. Much has been written about his divinity, but not as much on his humanity. What has been written, however, is deeply encouraging. Jesus, like all of us, felt every human emotion and the writers of the Gospels are quick to show us the deep humanity of our Lord:
- John records the emotional response of Jesus upon hearing of his friend Lazarus’ death. (John 11:35)
- We see Jesus feeling the gut wrenching pain of seeing the people “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:36)
- Jesus surprises us with his righteous anger as he flips tables in the temple. (John 2:15-16)
Many people around the world have been confronted and shocked by the utter humanity of our Savior and we, especially pastors, need to make sure we also engage with Jesus on his very human level; as the one has been tempted as we are, but is without sin (Heb 4:15).
If Jesus was not afraid to be completely transparent and real with the human emotions he felt with his disciples in full view, we should not fear the reality of our emotions with our people who God has entrusted us to lead and to love.
Too many pastors feel it is their responsibility to only show the “good” Christian emotions. In times of real pain and suffering, they quickly scramble to the mountaintop and forget the realities of the valleys where they actually are. Even if you're not a pastor, maybe you've felt this way.
I know I have felt this pressure. Throughout the last year, my wife and I have gone through much pain and struggle in our first pregnancy. In January, we found out one of our unborn twins had died in the womb and we were no longer having two children but one. It was difficult to navigate the sorrow of the loss of one child while still celebrating the life of the other. In the pain, we named the baby we lost Annas, which means, Grace of God. A few months later, we were told we were having a little boy, but he had a neural tube defect called Spina Bifida.
If I’m being honest, I can tell you I was afraid. I know the promises of God. I know the passages of scripture telling me to fear not. I know that God is sovereign and good. But I was afraid of the pain, afraid of the plan God had for me and my wife, and afraid of what my son might have to endure as he grows up and lives with his condition.
As my wife and I spoke with people at our church, they wanted to know how we were doing emotionally and I found it very hard to show my feelings to those I spoke with. I felt the pressure to be “right” and theologically correct and to not show them the pain I suffered.
But, through the work of the Holy Spirit, I have been learning through Jesus’ example -- seeing his emotional reactions and actions with his people -- and I have been lovingly encouraged by him to show what a pastor looks like who is “in process” emotionally. I have been able to find my sure footing on Jesus who is my Rock, and to demonstrate that, even though I trust Jesus, I can still feel all of the emotions he felt. I can be present with all of the confusion and express to my people what it is to not have all of my questions answered but know the Lord is in control and I can trust him.
Can you also follow Jesus’ actions and be unguarded with your emotions to the people around you? Your humanity and openness will encourage those whom the Lord has placed in your life.
On Mother’s Day I was able to preach to my congregation about how God led me to be honest in my emotions as I trust him with his plan for my family.
My son, Jack Steven Williams, was born on August 12th 2014 at 9:03am. He weighed 8 pounds and 2 ounces. He was born with Spina Bifida and was immediately transported to the NICU at Seattle Children’s hospital. A little over 24 hours after his birth he underwent neurosurgery as his spinal cord was placed back into his body and the opening in his back was closed. It was an incredibly challenging time for my wife and I as our first-born son suffered and we were unable to help him.
The only way we were able to push forward in hope was that our Father in heaven had felt the same emotions as his Son suffered on a cross paying for the sin of the world and that since he had once turned his face on his only son he would never turn his face from my son.
By His grace my son did not develop any complications with his surgery and has healed amazingly, with one of our nurses remarking of his ‘perfect healing’. He will still have struggles as he grows up and deals with his condition but it is my great hope that the Lord will be as faithful to my son as he has been with me.
Truly, our only hope is Christ our rock and we must show that in the good and the bad.
Mars Hill Church, please know truly, that what we sing on Sundays is the very real foundation of your pastors, I pray it would be yours also.
"Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus name." – The Solid Rock, Edward Mote, 1834